Allegations relating to Rafale deal shameful: Sitharaman

Rahul Gandhi asked Sitharaman to tell the public the final price of each Rafale fighter jet and whether PM Modi took prior permission from Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) before announcing the purchase deal in Paris.

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday rubbished Congress party's allegations of bypassing the procedures in procuring 36 Rafale aircrafts from France, saying that the deal for the planes was done in a transparent manner and had to be struck quickly keeping in mind the defence preparedness of the Indian Air Force (IAF). It was not financially prudent to negotiate ToT for just 36 fighters, she said.

"Between 2004 and 2014, entire decade, the UPA could not arrive at a decision".

"We will have to buy more (fighter aircraft), but who we will buy it from, when we will buy, we will see that", she said.

On Congress allegation that Dassault Aviation, the French manufacturer of Rafale, refused transfer of technology (ToT) to India, Sitharaman said it does not make economic sense to go for ToT for 36 aircraft as that would have resulted in escalation of cost. She said that the previous dispensation spent 10 years in the procurement procedure of 126 fighter jets and did not sign the deal even after the lowest bidder was selected.

Rahul also took pot shots at PM Modi over the Rafale deal on Twitter saying, "Can you explain "Reliance" on someone with nil experience in aerospace for Rafale deal?"

Sitharaman said she has asked CII officials to hold discussions with the state government and chart out a plan. "The government has negotiated a very good deal". The delivery of the jets is scheduled to begin from September, 2019.

"When we came back in power in 2014, the situation was grim". But the per unit cost zooms to nearly Rs 1,640 crore if the overall deal is taken into account, which includes a deadly weapons package, all spares and costs for 75% fleet availability and performance-based logistics support for five years, among other things, as reported by TOI earlier. "Twelve long years of negotiations and still (there was) no decision, although critically recognising the need for strengthening the Air Force", said Sitharaman.


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