Rafale deal row: Govt compromised national interest, says Congress

Ghulam Nabi Azad
The Congress on Friday accused the Modi government of "compromising" on national security and causing a loss of Rs 126 billion to the state exchequer on account of purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets.

Quoting from the annual report of Dassault Aviation, makers of the fighter aircraft, the party alleged that the company sold each jet to India at Rs 3.51 billion higher than those sold to Qatar and Egypt 11 months ago.

Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Randeep Surjewala said while 36 Rafale jets were sold to India at 7.5 billion Euros in 2016, 48 jets were sold to Qatar and Egypt at 7.9 billion Euros in 2015.

This amounted to Rs 16.7 billion per aircraft for India and Rs 13.1 billion to Egypt/Qatar. There was a difference of Rs 3.51 billion for each aircraft, the party claimed.

Addressing a joint press conference, Azad, Surjewala and former Minister of State for Defence Jitendra Singh asserted that the government had adopted complete opaqueness in the purchase of the Rafale fighter aircraft.

Azad asserted that had the Modi government not cancelled the deal struck by the UPA dispensation for 126 Rafale jets, it could have saved Rs 412 billion.

"The Modi government's 'diversionary tactics' on Rafale deal has left more questions than answers," they said in a statement.

Accusing the prime minister of compromising on national security and interests, Azad asked why were only 36 fighter jets purchased instead of 126 jets for which international bids were called for.

"Is this not compromising with national security? Why are prime minister and defence minister hiding the purchase price (of the jets)? Is it correct that per aircraft pricing of Rafale as per bid dated 12.12.2012 (during the UPA-Congress government) was Rs 5.26 billion as against the Modi government's per aircraft purchase price of Rs 16.7 billion?" he asked.

Surjewala said the deal was also made in absence of prior clearance from Cabinet Committee on Security, thus sacrificing the national interest and bypassing Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) on the Rs 360 billion 'offset contract' in favour of a private entity with no defence manufacturing experience.

"Grave apprehensions and claims of insurmountable loss being caused to public exchequer stand exposed as the government refuses to state the truth. A huge scam is brewing in procurement of fighter aircrafts for the Indian Air Force, yet the Modi government remains opaque, intransient, obscure and obstinate," the Congress leaders alleged.