Rafale deal: Def minister slams Cong for spying a scam


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Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday described the Congress allegation of a "huge scam" in the 36 Rafale fighter aircraft deal as "shameful and a disservice to the armed forces."

She said Congress-led UPA government could not take a decision on the much-awaited deal for 10 long years, despite knowing the void in the Indian Air Force.

"It was a grim situation when NDA-2 came to power. We had to move forward quickly so that IAF’s preparedness doesn’t remain unattended," Sitharaman said, countering the allegations made by the Congress party leadership, including its vice president Rahul Gandhi.

The principal opposition party claimed Narendra Modi government inked the controversial defence deal at an inflated price of Rs 1,570.8 crore per aircraft as against the Rs 526.1 crore per aircraft price negotiated by the UPA.

"Per aircraft cost with fully loaded weapons and systems is better than the deal negotiated by the UPA government," she said, without disclosing the figures.

The defence minister said she was not running away from releasing specific figures and brushed aside the allegations of the benefits that Reliance company would accrue from the deal.

"Bickering on cost is shameful. They have done a disservice to the nation and armed forces. Inspite of the negotiation and identification of the L1 (lowest bidder), they could not close the deal. Don’t they owe an answer and now they are bickering over the price," she said.

The 7.87 billion Euro (nearly Rs 59,000 crore) contract was inked in Delhi by the DGA France and Deputy Chief of Air Staff in September 2016 in the presence of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and his French counterpart Jean Yves Le Drian – almost 15 months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the announcement during his trip to France in April 2015.

All procedures were scrupulously followed and the Cabinet Committee on Security approval was obtained before an inter-governmental agreement was signed between India and France in 2016, Sitharaman said.

No tech transfer

She pointed out since the 36-jet deal was an "emergency procurement," it made no economic sense for a technology transfer.

The minister asserted the contract to acquire 36 fully weaponised Rafale combat jets for the IAF was a much better deal than what had been negotiated by the Congress-led UPA government for ten years.

French officials too denied the allegations of corruption. "The fighter jet has been selected for its outstanding performance and competitive price through a fully transparent and competitive process," a French official stated. Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa too defended the deal.

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