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NEW DELHI: The NDA government on Wednesday attacked Congress for leveling “unfounded and misleading” allegations against the Rs 59,000 crore contract for 36 French Rafale fighters, reiterating it had secured a “better deal” in terms of price, capability, equipment, delivery and maintenance than the one “notionally negotiated” by the previous UPA regime.
“The procurement of 36 Rafale aircraft through an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) with France to meet the urgent need of the IAF is strictly in accordance with the Defence Procurement Procedure in all aspects,” said the defence ministry, in a two-page statement.
The MoD said the demand that it disclose the details and value of the contract of the Rafale deal, which was inked in September 2016 after the NDA government scrapped the deadlocked procurement process initiated by the previous UPA regime for acquisition of 126 fighters, was “unrealistic”.
“The approximate acquisition cost of the Rafale aircraft has already been provided to Parliament. Provision of exact item-wise cost and other information will reveal, inter alia, details regarding the various customizations and weapons systems specially designed to augment the effectiveness and lethality of the assets, impact our military preparedness and compromise our national security,” it said.
“Such details would also come under the ambit of the security agreement signed in 2008. Thus, in not revealing the item-wise details of the contract, the government is merely following in letter and spirit the confidentiality provisions of a bilateral India-France Agreement of 2008 signed by the previous government,” it further said, adding that UPA government had refused to disclose the price of defence procurements, including in response to Parliament questions.
As earlier reported by TOI, while each Rafale jet will cost Rs 670 crore, the per unit cost goes up to almost 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.
Congress has alleged the “non-transparent” deal was vastly overpriced, violated defence procurement procedures and included no transfer of technology (ToT).
The statement of the defence ministry rebutted Congress chief’s claim that Modi government opted for Rafale fighters even when Eurofighter Typhoon had offered to slash its price by 20%. ” It seems to have been conveniently forgotten that then government itself had company’s unsolicited offer made days after the closure of bid process, declared Rafale as the L1 bidder and had commenced negotiations with it in February 2012,” said the statement , while refraining from mentioning Eurofighter.
“It may also be noted that contrary to the impression sought to be created by the Opposition, in the earlier proposal to procure Rafale, which ended in a stalemate, there was no provision for ToT but only to manufacture (108 of the 126 jets) under licence (by defence PSU Hindustan Aeronautics). The (UPA) government was unable to agree on the terms for even that in its negotiations with the vendor, resulting in the long-drawn exercise ultimately turning futile,” said the MoD.
The ministry also said that UPA government failed to implement the decision taken in 2012 to address the alarming decline in IAF’s fighter strength and that even the 2012 decision to buy Rafale fighters was put on hold because the “then defence minister exercised an unprecedented personal veto”.
It also denied Congress’s charge about Anil Ambani-led Reliance group being one of the beneficiaries of the deal. “No Indian offset Partner for the 2016 deal had been so far selected by the vendor DA (Dassault Aviation).” The ministry said it was for the DA to select the Indian Offset Partners.