Rafale and Nirmala Sitharaman: Defence Minister’s 8 ‘lies’

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has been continually shifting goalposts on the Rafale deal. Here are rejoinders to the eight claims she has made so far

IANS Photo
IANS Photo

Vishwadeepak

1. Negotiations for procurement of 126 Rafale jets under the UPA government fell through as Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) did not have the required capability to produce the jets in India

• Experts have reminded the Defence Minister that HAL had manufactured MIG, Sukhoi, Mirage, etc. under licence and developed Tejas indigenously. Technology transfer by Dassault was designed to add to HAL’s capabilities and develop indigenous capacity. What’s more, on March 25, 2015, Dassault CEO Eric Trapper told the media in Paris that Dassault was very happy with negotiations with HAL.

2. During negotiation with HAL, Dassault felt that the cost with which the HAL will produce will be far higher than the aircraft produced in France

• Every attempt to manufacture anything based on foreign technology is expensive in India. But that is the investment countries make to develop indigenous capability over time.

3. I have no intention of undermining HAL, but “why could not the then Defence minister say that “we will pump in all the required resources into HAL. He could have done it. That was not done”

• Between May, 2014 and April, 2015 it was the NDA Government which was negotiating with Dassault as well as HAL. The commitment to enhance facilities at HAL was for the Modi Government to make.

4. It was the UPA Government which dumped HAL. “Deal didn’t happen during the UPA. What also didn’t happen during UPA was that between HAL and Dassault, they couldn’t agree on production terms. So HAL and Rafale couldn’t go together. Doesn’t that very clearly say who didn’t go together with HAL, under which government did that happen?’

• Why did the Dassault CEO say on March 25, 2015, that negotiations with HAL had proceeded smoothly, that Dassault was very happy with HAL and that 95% of the issues had been sorted out? Eric Trapper said this in Paris and on record.

The Government has twice revealed the price in Parliament. Nirmala Sitharaman herself had announced at a media briefing that the prices would be revealed. Even now she maintains that the NDA’s Rafale deal is 9% cheaper than what was negotiated by UPA. So, what is preventing her from coming clean?

5. NDA Government reduced the number of planes from 126 to 36 because IAF did not have the infrastructure — parking place and maintenance facility — for 126 fighter aircraft

• The Indian Air Force (IAF) has a sanctioned strength of 42 squadrons but at present has only 33 squadrons of planes. It one time had 37 squadrons and therefore to suggest that IAF does not have parking facilities for 126 planes (seven squadrons seems outrageous. Moreover, 108 Rafale planes were to be made over a period of six to seven years, giving IAF enough time to increase parking space.

6. The ₹526 crore figure for each Rafale refers to the bare aircraft, capable of just flying and landing, and does not take into account avionics, arsenal and other accessories that make it a complete fighting machine. The key add-ons will be much superior than that negotiated by the UPA

• Why then did the joint statement by India and France underline that the new Government-to-Government deal would have the same specifications as were given by the Indian Air Force in 2008?

7. The Government is buying Rafale with key add-ons but paying 9% less price than agreed by the UPA

• If the NDA Government is paying less price than the UPA, then why not buy more than 126 planes that the UPA had bargained for? Why settle for just 36 planes and pay almost as much as the UPA had negotiated for 126?

8. Revealing the price of Rafale fighter planes would mean compromising national security. I don’t want to satisfy Rahul Gandhi’s ego and reveal details of avionics, ammunitions and the changes made as per the country conditions to this sophisticated aircraft

• The Government has twice revealed the price in Parliament. Nirmala Sitharaman herself had announced at a media briefing that the prices would be revealed. Even now she maintains that the NDA’s Rafale deal is 9% cheaper than what was negotiated by UPA. So, what is preventing her from coming clean?

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