Expressing happiness over the landing of five Rafale fighter jets at the Ambala air base on Wednesday, former Defence Minister AK Antony said that had it not for been for complaints by two top BJP leaders in 2012, the French aircraft would have come to India when Manmohan Singh was the Prime Minister.
Setting the record straight, the country's longest serving Defence Minister and Congress leader recalled that the discussions on the aircraft first started way back in 2001 when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister.
"The decision was taken to buy 126 aircraft, after the then newfound relations between China and Pakistan came to light. Then it again took shape in 2007 when Singh was the Prime Minister. But when everything was in place to buy 18 Rafales from France and 108 others to be build at HAL in Bengaluru through technology transfer, in 2012, I got a complaint about this deal from two senior BJP leaders. Since I got this complaint, I was in no position to put their complaint in the dustbin," Antony recalled.
"Thus, the matter got delayed. Had the planned buying gone ahead, thousands of jobs would have been created. But it did not happen. And from 126 aircraft, it has now come down to 36. Now five have come; more are to come later this year and by the end of next year; all the 36 aircraft would be there. Am very happy for the entire defence forces in general and the Indian Air force in particular. I just said this to put the record straight -- but for the complaint, this would have happened during the tenure of Manmohan Singh," Antony said.