‘Rafale deal signed in a year; UPA took 10’

Nayanima Basu New Delhi | Updated on February 07, 2018 Published on February 07, 2018

The Ministry of Defence cited precedent and national security to refuse to make public the finer details of the warplane deal   -  REUTERS

Defence ministry says current pact with France better in terms of capability, price, maintenance

The government on Wednesday sough to upend the attack from the Congress over the the Rafale warplane deal, saying it had wrapped up the agreement with the French company in a year, while the erstwhile UPA dispensation’s “notional” deal took 10 years.

“As doubts are sought to be created about the 2016 contract for 36 aircraft, it is once again strongly reiterated that the deal secured by the government is better in terms of capability, price, equipment, delivery, maintenance, training, etc, than that notionally negotiated by the then government in a process it could not conclude in 10 years. Moreover, the present government completed these negotiations in just about one year,” said a statement from the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

It said that in 2012, the then Defence Minister, AK Antony, exercised an “unprecedented personal” veto for the procurement of 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA).

As the government came under severe pressure from the Opposition to disclose the exact details of the deal, the Centre sought refuge in the fact that the even the UPA government had expressed its inability to disclose the price of various defence programmes sanctioned during their time.

National security cited

The government also said the Opposition’s demand to disclose the details and value of the contract for the Rafale aircraft signed in 2016 is “unrealistic”.

“The approximate acquisition cost of the Rafale aircraft has already been provided to the Parliament. Provision of exact item-wise cost and other information will reveal, inter alia, details regarding the various customisations and weapons systems specially designed to augment the effectiveness and lethality of the assets, impact our military preparedness and compromise our national security,” the Defence Ministry said.

The ministry also added that such details would also come under the ambit of the security agreement signed in 2008. “Thus, in not revealing the item-wise details of the contract, the government is merely following in letter and spirit the confidentiality provisions of a bilateral India-France Agreement of 2008 signed by the previous government,” it said.

The MoD also said that the procurement of the fighter jets was done through an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) as the Air Force was in dire need of these twin-engine fighters.

It said that the acquisition was done in in accordance with the Defence Procurement Procedure in all aspects including mandating, conducting and monitoring of negotiations and seeking all necessary approvals, including that of the Cabinet Committee on Security, before entering into the IGA.

“It may also be noted that contrary to the impression sought to be created by the Opposition, in the earlier proposal to procure Rafale, which ended in a stalemate, there was no provision for transfer of technology but only to manufacture under licence,” the Ministry said.

Interestingly, even in the current deal, which is worth ₹58,000 crore, there is no technology-transfer taking place as the planes are being acquired in fly-away condition, sources told BusinessLine.

Meanwhile, the maker of these planes Dassault Aviation is pushing the government for a follow-on order for 100 more fighters. Only if that happens will the vendor negotiate terms of technology transfer, sources said.

Published on February 07, 2018

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