Rafale Sitharaman looks to shoot down charges

first_imgSHARE SHARE EMAIL July 20, 2018 Published on SHARE politics Cites secrecy agreement with France inked by the UPA govt COMMENT Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s allegation that the NDA government’s purchase of Rafale fighter aircraft was a “shady deal” invited an angry retort from Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who said the details of the contract could not be divulged because of a secrecy pact that the erstwhile UPA dispensation had signed with France.During his speech in the Lok Sabha on Friday, Rahul had accused the Defence Minister of misleading the country. He maintained that the French President had told him during a meeting that there was no problem in sharing details related to the aircraft deal, which is worth ₹58,000 crore.The Congress chief’s charges led to an uproar, with an irate Sitharaman wanting to issue a rebuttal when the Speaker Sumitra Mahajan adjourned the House. After the House reconvened, the Speaker said references to someone not present in the House, such as the French President, should not have been made and when a member makes an accusation, it should be supported by documents. After Rahul spoke, the Defence Minister was asked by the Speaker to present her clarification.Govt-to-govt dealSitharaman said the secrecy agreement with France was signed in 2008 and the Rafale deal was covered under it. “As per Article 10 of the Inter Governmental Agreement (IGA) between India and France, on purchase of the Rafale aircraft, protection of classified information and materials exchanged under IGA shall be governed by provisions of security agreement signed on January 25, 2008,” she said.Sitharaman said the pact was inked during the UPA regime when AK Antony was the defence minister. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar also rejected the Congress President’s charges. India signed an IGA with France in September 2016 for the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets at a cost of around ₹58,000 crore, nearly one-and-half years after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the proposal, during a visit to Paris.The delivery of the jets is scheduled to begin from September 2019.Cost concernsThe Congress had raised several questions about the deal, including the rates, and accused the government of compromising national interest and security while causing a loss to the public exchequer. The Congress has alleged that the deal negotiated under its rule was much cheaper than the contract signed by the Modi government.The government has been refusing to divulge details of the deal citing confidentiality provisions of an Indo-French pact of 2008. The Congress also claimed that Qatar had purchased 12 Rafale fighter jets in November 2017 for $108.33 million per aircraft (₹694.80 crore), noting that the per aircraft rate at which the Gulf nation is buying the jet is much lower than the rate at which India will procure them. COMMENTSlast_img

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