[As recently as on the 17th of last November, the Defence Minister, and no
less, in a specially convened press conference to refute the charge of
corruption and collusion with Anil Ambani-led Reliance Defence Limited at
the cost of the public sector HAL, had committed to share "all the figures".
There was no rider, on "national security" or "contractual obligation" or
(Ref.: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0qKRCG0IPM> and <
One only wonders what about that?]
Rs. 12,000 Crore Loss Due To BJP Government's Rafale Deal, Says Congress
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.
All India | Press Trust of India | Updated: March 10, 2018 00:39 IST
Rs 12,000 Crore Loss Due To BJP Government's Rafale Deal, Says Congress
BJP countered the charges, accusing the Congress of "misleading" the nation
on the issue
Jets sold to India by company at higher price than Qatar, Egypt: Congress
Party accused PM Modi of compromising on national security, interests
BJP countered charges, accusing Congress of misleading the nation
The Congress on Friday accused the Modi government of "compromising"
national security and causing a loss of over Rs. 12,000 crore to the
taxpayer with its deal to buy 36 French 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.
351 crore 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. 1,670.70 crore per aircraft for India and Rs. 1,319.80
crore to Egypt and Qatar. There was a difference of Rs. 351 crore for each
aircraft, the party claimed.
Addressing a joint press conference, Mr Azad, Mr 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
Mr 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. 41,212
"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, Mr 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. 526.1 crore as against the Modi
government's per aircraft purchase price of Rs. 1,670.70 crore?" he asked.
Mr 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. 36,000 crore
'offset contract' in favour of a private entity with no defence
"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.
The BJP, however, countered the charges, accusing the Congress of
"misleading" the nation on the issue. It said the Congress-led government
never inked any deal for the fighter aircraft before 2014 and sat on its
file due to its "greed".
BJP spokesperson Anil Baluni called the Congress allegations a "pack of
lies" and part of its strategy to spread "untruth and confusion" against
the Modi government.
"The Congress has again misled the country over a sensitive issue like
defence. It is comparing a best deal struck by this government in the
national interest with an alleged deal of the UPA government which had
never happened," the BJP's national media head said.
The trust is that the UPA dispensation sat on the Rafale deal file for
reasons of its "greed and personal benefits" and compromised the nation's
security interests, he claimed.
Print edition : March 16, 2018
New smoking gun?
1 / 2StartStop
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and his French counterpart, Jean Yves le
Drian, after signing the Rafale deal in New Delhi in September 2016. Photo:
THE HINDU ARCHIVES
Congress president Rahul Gandhi speaking to the media at Parliament House
in February. Photo:PTI
The opaqueness of the Modi government’s deal with France to acquire fighter
jets raises more questions than answers. By AKSHAY DESHMANE
Among the many high-profile defence deals signed during the tenure of the
Narendra Modi government, the Rafale aircraft deal is the only one that has
persistently attracted allegations of a scam. A closer look at the
developments relating to the high-profile deal over the last three years
reveals how and why it has steadily and increasingly become controversial.
This deal entered public consciousness in early April 2015 when the Prime
Minister announced that India would acquire 36 Rafale fighter jets in a
“fly-away condition” owing to a “critical operational necessity” of the
Indian Air Force (IAF).
The unexpected decision, announced at a joint press conference with the
then French President, Francois Hollande, in Paris attracted praise and
also astonishment in India—praise for the urgency shown by the Prime
Minister in taking the decision to fulfil a 15-year-old demand of the IAF
and astonishment at the manner in which he had summarily replaced a
previous arrangement under which 18 Rafale aircraft were to be acquired in
“fly-away condition” and 108 manufactured in India, through an
Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) with France.
More than a month later, the Congress party raised its first set of
questions and criticisms against the IGA. At a press conference, former
Defence Minister A.K. Antony sought clarifications about two things. Was
the Finance Ministry, which had raised objections about the deal in the
past, consulted and was the Defence Procurement Procedure followed? A day
later, the Congress’ deputy leader in the Rajya Sabha and former Commerce
Minister, Anand Sharma, sought to up the ante. He asked why the public
sector company Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), which has a long
experience in manufacturing the French Mirage jets, was kept out of the
IGA. He also sought to know which private Indian company had replaced HAL,
which was initially supposed to manufacture 108 Rafale aircraft in
Bengaluru following technology transfer from Dassault Aviation, the French
company that designs and manufactures the military aircraft.
However, the Modi government, then just a year old, enjoyed tremendous
public goodwill and the Congress’ questions did not attract wide attention.
In fact, the inability of the previous Congress-led alliance government to
expedite procurement of the aircraft still dominated the political
narrative pushed by the Modi government, which was seen as being decisive
in addressing the concerns of the armed forces.
In an interview to The Tribune in May 2015, Modi sounded decisive in
responding to criticisms from the Congress and justified his decision to
purchase 36 Rafale aircraft in a “fly-away condition”: “The purchase of
Rafale aircraft was guided by the need to respond to the immediate
operational requirements of the Air Force which was affecting our defence
capability. How can that be questioned? In fact, the challenge is to break
a logjam that we inherited from the previous government. Some decision had
to be taken. We consulted all concerned and decided that we will have only
a government-to-government deal. There will be transparency, so no one will
be able to raise questions.” However, questions continued to be raised. On
its part, the government asked its critics to wait for a deal to be signed
to share further details. A financial deal drawn from the IGA was still
being worked out, the government seemed to suggest.
In September 2016, Manohar Parrikar, then the Defence Minister, formally
signed a deal with his French counterpart to acquire 36 Rafale aircraft.
Officials stated that the first Rafale jet would be inducted in the IAF
within three years of the deal and all 36 in 67 months. Evidently, the
number of aircraft proposed to be acquired under the deal changed from 126
In late October 2017, the foundation stone for the manufacturing facility
of a new joint venture company, Dassault Reliance Aviation Limited (DRAL),
was laid in Nagpur. As the name suggests, it is a business partnership
between Reliance Aerostructure, an Anil Ambani-led Reliance Group company,
and Eric Trappier-led Dassault Aviation. The purpose of forming this joint
venture was stated in an official release issued by the Reliance Group:
“The Dassault-Reliance manufacturing facility Dhirubhai Ambani Aerospace
Park is located in the Mihan SEZ adjoining Nagpur International Airport.
Under Joint Venture company, DRAL (51% Reliance Aerostructure and 49%
Dassault Aviation), the facility will manufacture several components of the
offset obligation connected to the purchase of 36 Rafale Fighters from
France, signed between the two governments in September 2016. DRAL will
manufacture components for the Legacy Falcon 2000 Series of Civil Jets
manufactured by Dassault Aviation and thus will become part of its Global
Supply Chain. These first steps are expected to achieve in the coming years
the possible setting up of final assembly of Rafale and Falcon Aircraft.”
Among those who attended the foundation-stone laying ceremony were Nitin
Gadkari, Union Minister and Member of Parliament from Nagpur, Maharashtra
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Reliance Group chairman Anil Ambani.
In the official statement, Ambani was quoted as saying: “This facility in
Mihan, Nagpur within the Aerospace Park named after my late father Shri
Dhirubhai Ambani could not have happened without the strong and consistent
support of Shri Nitin Gadkari and Shri Devendra Fadnavis.”
A little over a fortnight after the ceremony, just as the momentum for the
Gujarat Assembly election was building up, critical questions against the
deal resurfaced. At a press conference, the Congress’
communications-in-charge, Randeep Surjewala, said: “A huge scam is
brewing.” The Congress, he said, had repeatedly sought to get more
information about the deal, especially its financials, but after the IGA
was announced, it was asked to wait for a deal. Even after a deal was
signed in September 2016, full information was not being made public, he
Surjewala had a set of five questions for the Prime Minister on behalf of
the Congress. These were about the financials of the deal—chiefly about the
claim that the deal was costlier than the one which was being negotiated
under the previous government—and transfer of technology.
One of the questions was particularly sharp: “Why did Prime Minister Shri
Narendra Modi promote the interests of one industrial group, i.e., Reliance
Defence Limited, which has led to the company tying up and entering into a
joint venture with Dassault Aviation worth Rs.30,000 crore? Why was this
done by Prime Minister bypassing the interests of a reputed public sector
undertaking like HAL?”
It provoked sharp reactions from Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokespersons
and the Reliance Group on the same day. In a statement, the company termed
allegations made against both Ambani and his companies as “unfounded and
false”. Specifically mentioning the allegation about the Prime Minister
promoting the company’s interests, it said: “The joint venture between
Reliance Aerostructure Limited and Dassault Aviation Limited is a bilateral
agreement between two companies. Dassault Aviation selected Reliance
Aerostructure Limited as its joint venture partner. The Indian government
has no role to play in this.” Notably, in conclusion, the statement added:
“We reserve the right to take appropriate legal action against any party
that disseminates these defamatory allegations.”
The Congress refused to back down. The next day, Rahul Gandhi, then a party
vice president, again raised questions while interacting with mediapersons
at a party event: “Tell me one thing. You ask me so many questions and I
answer them frankly. Why don’t you ask Modiji about the Rafale deal? And
why don’t you ask questions about Amit Shah’s son… as to what is happening.
I will happily answer whatever questions you ask me, but the Prime
Minister, who changed the entire Rafale deal to help a businessman…why
don’t you ask him about that? I want to ask you.” Soon afterwards, he
tweeted: “Can you explain ‘Reliance’ on someone with nil experience in
aerospace for Rafale deal? Self ‘Reliance’ is obviously a critical aspect
of ‘Make in India’.”
However, with the Gujarat Assembly election campaign throwing up new
political issues, the Rafale deal got relegated to the sidelines in
In early February 2018, it came under critical scrutiny again, this time in
Parliament. M.V. Rajeev Gowda, the Congress’ Rajya Sabha member, asked
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, through a written question, about the
cost of each aircraft under the IGA for 36 Rafale fighter aircraft. In her
official response, she wrote: “As per ‘Article-10’ of the
Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) between Government of India and
Government of France on the purchase of Rafale aircraft, the protection of
the classified information and material exchanged under IGA is governed by
the provisions of the Security Agreement signed between the two nations in
This provoked a fresh controversy. Speaking with mediapersons outside
Parliament, Rahul Gandhi said: “For the first time, the Defence Minister is
saying that we will not share details of money spent on buying the
aircraft…yeh kya tareeka hai [is this the way?]…I said during the Gujarat
elections that there is a scam in the Rafale deal. Modiji has personally
got the deal done. Modiji has personally gone to Paris. Personally the deal
was changed. Entire India knows it. And the Defence Minister is saying she
will not inform India, the Indian martyrs and their relatives, about the
money spent on buying those aircraft. What does this mean? This only means
there is some scam.” Both Nirmala Sitharaman and Finance Minister Arun
Jaitley strongly rebutted this allegation, insisting that there was no
scam. Jaitley even pointed towards replies by previous Defence Ministers in
Congress governments who refused to share information about the Rafale deal
citing the same reason. However, another assertion from the current
government that there was no deal to purchase 126 Rafale aircraft under the
previous government appeared to take the sting out of his claim that
Ministers of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) had also denied
information about the deal in Parliament.
Manish Tewari, former Cabinet Minister and Congress spokesperson, told
Frontline that Nirmala Sitharaman’s reply was unconvincing. He pointed to
the definition of “classified information” in the 2008 security agreement
cited by the Defence Minister. “The definition doesn’t cover the price [of
defence equipment being imported],” Tewari said.
The definition in the 2008 agreement for protection of “Classified
information and material in the field of defence” states: “For the purpose
of this agreement: ‘classified information and material’ refers to
information and material to which a specific level of security
classification has been accorded regardless of its nature and mode of
transmission, which requires protection against compromise, destruction,
removal, disclosure, loss or access to any uncleared [sic] and unauthorised
person, in the interest of national security in accordance with national
laws and regulations of the respective parties.”
Rajeev Gowda explained the rationale of his party asking the questions: “We
are not asking for specific details about weapons or anything that is of
strategic relevance. We want to know, overall, whether you sold out the
country and paid three times the price which other countries have paid. It
raises suspicions about why you are paying more. If your Minister of State
for Defence has already answered this question in the past, then why are
you not telling the price details now? In any case, price is a gross
number. You can give that. National security does not come under threat by
revealing that. The bluff and bluster seems a shameful attempt to cover
up.” Rajeev Gowda was referring to an answer given by the Minister of State
for Defence on November 18, 2016, in the Lok Sabha. Responding to a written
question raised by Sukhbir Singh Jaunpuria, a BJP MP from Rajasthan, about
the estimated cost of the fighter jets and the expected time of their
delivery, Subhash Bhamre, Minister of State for Defence, wrote: “Cost of
each Rafale aircraft is approximately Rs.670 crore and all the aircraft
will be delivered by April 2022.”
The reluctance to share information in February 2018 is, therefore,
Speaking to Frontline, a top government source said: “Cost-wise, this is a
cheaper deal than what the UPA government had been negotiating.
Additionally, there are 13 India-specific changes which make the Rafales we
are buying even more potent. If we give details, then Pakistan will have no
need to recruit spies. What has happened is that they haven’t got anything
against the Modi government in the past four years. These are manufactured
Notwithstanding the government’s reluctance to share information, the
Congress president continued to attack the Prime Minister over the Rafale
deal in late February. In a tweet, he exhorted the Prime Minister to speak
about the “Rs.58,000 crore Rafale Scam” in the “Mann Ki Baat” radio show.
Clearly, India’s main opposition party has found one of its campaign issues
for the 2019 elections. But will the accusations create enough disaffection
towards the government to affect voting behaviour?
Sanjay Kumar, Director of the Delhi-based Centre for the Study of
Developing Societies, said: “One thing which goes against the government
along with corruption is price rise. If the two things happen
simultaneously, people tend to believe that prices are rising because
politicians are making money. But the recent scams which have surfaced may
not have the same potential or same intensity which was there during the
UPA time because there were other things also happening, which people
didn’t like. So, yes, people would not welcome these scams, but it may not
have the same impact on the voting choices as it happened in 2014. Because,
a large number of people seem to think that the Prime Minister himself is
clean. He has not made his hands dirty in these scams, and so on, and the
whole government is centred on this one man. So that will actually help in
holding the tide against the BJP at this moment. What happens six months
from now, I do not know.”
The coming months are crucial because the next general elections are
scheduled for 2019. It is this that gives an edge to the opposition’s
clamour and makes the government worried.
Peace Is Doable
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