Rafale dogfight: Arun Jaitley, Rahul Gandhi trade charges over deal

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley
Jaitley: The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) suffered from decision-making paralysis. Wasn’t the decade-long delay... due to UPA’s incompetence and indecisiveness?

Opposition’s charges: There was no “decade-long delay”. From 2004 to 2007, the Indian Air Force (IAF) framed the fighter’s requirements; from 2007 to 2011, the IAF conducted flight tests and only in 2011 did the IAF select the Rafale and the Eurofighter. In 2012, the Rafale was found cheaper and price negotiations began with Dassault 

Jaitley: Did the UPA’s delay compromise national security, given the IAF’s urgent need for fighters?

Opposition’s charges: Why did the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) wait for more than one year before buying the Rafale in 2015? National security was compromised by reducing the number from 126 (in the UPA tender) to 36, and doing away with the Make in India component

Jaitley: Was UPA’s failure to buy the Rafale motivated by “collateral considerations” like in Bofors?

Opposition’s charges: The UPA did not buy the Rafale, so there is no question of bribes. If there are questions of “collateral considerations”, they relate to Anil Ambani, and how he mysteriously replaced Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) in the deal

Jaitley: How has Rahul Gandhi given contradictory figures for cost of the Rafale: Rs 7 bn, Rs 5 bn, 5 bn, and Rs 5.3 bn?

Opposition’s charges: Why is the government refusing to release the real figures, both of Dassault’s 2007 bid and the cost of the current contract? 

Jaitley: Is the Congress aware of the Rafale price that Dassault quoted in 2007 in its winning (L-1) bid? An escalation clause in that bid would have raised the price until the last fighter was delivered. Has forex variation been considered?

Opposition’s charges: The Rafale price in Dassault’s 2007 was hinted at by then defence minister Manohar Parrikar, who said in April 2015 that 126 Rafales would cost about Rs 900 billion. Why is the government refusing to release the real figures?

Jaitley: Is Congress aware that, comparing basic aircraft price, along with the escalation clause, the NDA has signed the deal at a price 9 per cent cheaper?

Opposition’s charges: In the absence of official figures from the government, the deal price of €7.8 bn for 36 fighters indicates a far higher cost

Jaitley: Can Rahul Gandhi deny that, adding on India-specific adaptations and weaponry, would have made the 2007 L-1 price at least 20 per cent higher than what the NDA negotiated in 2016?

Opposition’s charges: The India-specific enhancements are a fiction, meant to hide the full cost. The joint statement issued in Paris by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Francoise Hollande in April 2015 mentions that 36 fighters would be in the same configuration as the 126 fighter tender of 2007

Jaitley: Can Rahul Gandhi deny that the total contract cost of 2016, with add-ons, future supplies and maintenance, is more favourable than the 2007 L-1 offer?

Opposition’s charges: The cost agreed to by the government in 2016 is far higher than the 2007 bid

Jaitley: Can Rahul Gandhi deny that the government has no contract relating to the Rafale with any private industry? All 36 Rafales supplied will be fully built 

Opposition’s charges: In abandoning the Make in India component of the 126-fighter tender of 2007, where 108 fighters were to be built by HAL, the NDA government has surrendered a great opportunity

Jaitley: Foreign original equipment manufacturers under the UPA’s own offset policy can select Indian offset partners 

Opposition’s charges: The guidelines give the defence minister the responsibility to approve all offset contracts 

Jaitley: Is Rahul Gandhi aware that there are two ways of acquiring defence equipment — either competitive bidding or through an Inter-Governmental Agreement?

Opposition’s charges: There is statutory procedure for approving an agreement. This was not followed

Jaitley: Can Rahul Gandhi deny that the UPA had in 2007 shortlisted the Rafale as technically- acceptable and L-1 in price competition? 

Opposition’s charges: It was a mistake to bring down the numbers from 126 to just 36 fighters

Jaitley: Can Rahul Gandhi deny that the urgency of defence requirement caused New Delhi and Paris to execute the deal? 

Opposition’s charges: The contract for 36 Rafales concluded was highly unfavourable

Jaitley: Can it be denied that both the price negotiation committee and the contract negotiation committee negotiated for 14 months? 

Opposition’s charges: The cost agreed upon was unfavourable to India

Jaitley: Can it be denied that before the deal was executed, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) approved the transaction? 

Opposition’s charges: The CCS did indeed approve the transaction before the contract was signed in 2016, but no CCS approval had been taken by Modi before his joint statement with Hollande in April 2015