Launching yet another attack against the Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government over the controversial Rafale deal, the Congress on Tuesday said the Narendra Modi government is guilty of compromising the national security. Accusing the government of suppressing facts, the Congress demanded a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to look into the matter.
Addressing a press conference here, former Defence minister AK Antony said, “The Modi government is guilty of compromising national security. They have been repeatedly saying that new Rafale deal is cheaper. If that was the case, why is the government buying only 36 aircraft?”
The former Defence minister claimed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced a unilateral purchase of only 36 aircraft on April 10, 2015, while the Indian Air Force (IAF) demanded 126 aircraft.
“The requirement for 126 aircraft by the IAF was in 2000. In 2018, the threat perception from our border nations is more than what it was in 2000. Out of 126 aircraft, 18 were to be delivered by France in fly-away condition. The remaining 108 were to be manufactured in India by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited,” Antony remarked.
“Before we demitted from office, the negotiations were almost over. After the NDA came into power, Prime Minister Modi announced the unilateral purchase of 36 aircraft on April 10, 2015. When IAF demanded 126 aircraft, who authorised the Prime Minister to reduce the number to 36? According to the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP), only the Defence Acquisition Council chaired by the Defence Minister and consisting of the Chiefs of the three Services can decide the number of aircraft or weapons needed” he added.
Continuing his tirade against the ruling government, Antony claimed that the deal had caused a significant dip in jobs for technicians. “If the UPA deal wasn’t cancelled, HAL would have acquired state-of-the-art technology through a transfer of technology. They would have gained experience to manufacture fighter aircraft. India lost this opportunity,” he said.
Antony further asked why the government did not purchase more than 126 aircraft if the prices were cheaper, as claimed by Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
“Recently, the Law Minister claimed that in the new agreement, aircraft are 9 per cent cheaper than in the UPA deal. The Finance Minister said it is 20 per cent cheaper. An IAF officer said it is 40 per cent cheaper. Why did they not buy more than 126 if it was cheaper?” he asked.
Antony also refuted Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s claim that the negotiations for the procurement of 126 Rafale jets under the UPA government fell through as HAL did not have the required capability to manufacture the jets in the country.
“Nirmala Sitharaman claimed that HAL does not have the capability to manufacture these aircraft. In fact, that is the only aerospace company in India to do so. It was awarded a Navaratna status. HAL has manufactured 4,660 aircraft of 31 types. During the UPA rule, HAL was a profit-making company. Under the Modi government, for the first time in history, HAL has taken approximately Rs 1,000 crore loan from various banks. Since there is growing perception that the present government’s Rafale deal has more skeletons in the closet, let there be a JPC probe to let the truth come out in the open,” he added.
During the UPA tenure, India planned to buy 18 off-the-shelf jets from France, with 108 others to be assembled in the country by the state-run aerospace and Defence company HAL.
The BJP-led government scrapped the UPA’s plan in 2015 and announced that it would buy 36 “ready-to-fly” Rafale jets instead of seeking a technology transfer from France’s Dassault Aviation and making the aircraft in India.