Published: Sun, November 19, 2017
Markets | By Noel Gibbs

Congress allegation on Rafael deal shameful: Defence Minister Sitharaman

Congress allegation on Rafael deal shameful: Defence Minister Sitharaman

"The UPA government from 2004-2014 could not arrive on a decision to address this critical necessity of fighters for the IAF". "The deal was finalised following a transparent procedure", Sitharaman told reporters.

The Defence Minister said the central government will remove the hurdles in domestic defence manufacturing. "Twelve long years of negotiations and still (there was) no decision, although critically recognising the need for strengthening the (Indian) Air Force", said Sitharaman while addressing a press conference here.

However, when asked repeatedly about comparative cost of each aircraft negotiated by the then UPA government and the rate at which the deal was sealed previous year, Sitharaman said she was not running away from sharing the details and asked the officials to give the figures to the media. She also pointed out that the deal was signed only in September 2016, nearly one and a half years after Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the announcement in Paris in April 2015. The delivery of the jets is scheduled to begin from September, 2019.

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On Friday, Congress had countered Nirmala saying, there are repeated attempts to cover up the irregularities in the deal and it raises serious questions on "national interests" and security.

"I am not shying away from giving figures", she said, asking the Defence Secretary to share the numbers.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, after talks with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj today, spoke about the deal as he expounded on the "strategic dimension" of the bilateral ties. "The country is seeking answers for the questions and she will have to answer it", he said.

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What has provoked the Congress is the statement from Sitharaman that the allegations of corruption in the deal are "shameful".

The deal for buying 126 Rafale fighter jets - with 108 to be made in India - from France was initiated in 2000, she said, and the UPA government had started negotiating the price with the L-1 (lowest bidder), Dassault Aviation of France, in December 2012.

The final agreement for 36 Rafale jets was signed in 2016 after five rounds of discussions between Indian and French sides and approval by the Cabinet Committee on Security, she said.

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Seetharaman said the State had to work out a futuristic proposal as what it is going to do for the next 50 years as technology is becoming obsolete within a year. Why don't you question Prime Minister Modi on the Rafale deal, or on Amit Shah's son.

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