Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday accused the previous Congress-led government’s inaction for delay in finalising the Rafale aircraft deal with France, ANI reported. She called the Congress’ allegations against the contract “shameful and a disservice” to the defence forces.
Congress has, since Tuesday, trained its guns at the government over the 2016 deal, with party Vice President Rahul Gandhi accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of altering the agreement “for the benefit of one businessman”, and the party earlier alleging a “huge scam”. Congress claims that the deal was overpriced.
Sitharaman said the deal was finalised following a transparent procedure. She said the urgent requirement of the Indian Air Force was the main reason for sealing the Rafale contract. The Cabinet Committee on Security had approved it before it was signed, she added.
“Between 2004 and 2014, entire decade the UPA [United Progressive Alliance] could not arrive at a decision,” said the defence minister. “Therefore when we came to power in 2014, we had to move forward so that the Air Force is not left with the need for preparedness.”
Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju also criticised the Congress for the allegations. In a tweet, he asked whether a party that ruled for “five decades” could behave “so irresponsibly”. He also said Gandhi’s statements were “detrimental to India” and “without any basis”.
In September 2016, India and France signed an agreement through which France would supply New Delhi with 36 Rafale fighter aircraft, to be delivered between September 2019 and April 2022.
The Congress has alleged that the cost of each aircraft is three times what its government had finalised in negotiations with France in 2012. It has also raised suspicion over Anil Ambani-led Reliance Defence’s involvement in a joint venture that will execute part of the deal.