To the acute discomfiture of the Government, reports emerged on Tuesday January 15 that the French Government had signed an agreement with Dassault, manufacturers of the Rafale fighter planes, for 28 Rafale planes at the cost of 2.3 billion Euros.
The report has caused a furore in India because the Modi Government had signed with Dassault an agreement to pay 7.8 billion Euros for supply of 36 Rafale planes. Twitter erupted with outrage and the Indian Government was asked to explain the arithmetic.
Civil rights activist and lawyer Prashant Bhushan, who had filed a petition before the Indian Supreme Court and challenged the Rafale deal signed by the Indian Government, tweeted: What?!! The French govt is buying an improved version of the Rafales at 2 B Euro for 28 aircraft. As against this, Modi bought 36 Rafales for 7.87 B! That is > 2.5x/aircraft paid by France. We have been looted to pay 30KCr Commission to Ambani as offset!
While the Supreme Court had dismissed the petitions challenging the deal, the controversy persists with the opposition accusing the Modi Government of paying almost three times the cost negotiated by the previous Government for each plane.
The Congress President had also spoken of the then Defence Minister and the present Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar telling his cabinet colleagues that he had all the sensitive files related to Rafale in his bedroom. Parrikar insinuated that since he was privy to the details, the Centre would not dare remove him as CM although he remains ill and confined to bed most of the time.
While the BJP had accused the Congress of having doctored the audio tape in which a Goa Minister Vishwajeet Rane could be heard talking of Parrikar’s quip, no FIR has been lodged and no inquiry has been initiated so far. Nor has any BJP minister, normally quick to slap defamation suits, has approached the court, strengthening suspicions of foul play.
Now the purchase order by the French has put fat in the fire. Excerpts from the report which has set the cat among the pigeons and the link is reproduced below:
“The French government today signed a €2 billion contract with Dassault Aviation for 28 Rafale aircraft and gave the go-ahead for development of the aircraft’s F4 standard which should be validated by 2024, although some functions will be ready by 2022.
The 28 aircraft will include some F4 functionalities and be delivered to the French air force from 2023. Defense Minister Florence Parly announced that a further 30 aircraft at the full F4 standard would be ordered in 2023 for delivery between 2027 and 2030.
The F4 standard will have upgraded radar sensors and front sector optronics as well as improved capabilities in the helmet-mounted display. It will have new weapons, notably MBDA’s Mica NG air-to-air missile and 1,000 kg AASM air-to-ground modular weapon, be able to carry the new Scalp missiles and be equipped with the Talios multifunction optronic pod made by Thales.”