The government on Wednesday said the Opposition’s demand that details and the contract value of the Rafale aircraft deal with France be disclosed was “unrealistic”.
In keeping these details confidential, the Centre is “merely following in letter and spirit” an agreement the previous Congress-led government signed with France in 2008, the Defence Ministry said.
The ministry was responding to allegations the Opposition parties have made against the Centre in connection with the agreement India signed in September 2016 with France for the supply of 36 Rafale aircraft. On Monday, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told the Rajya Sabha she could not disclose details of the deal as it is classified information.
On Tuesday, Congress President Rahul Gandhi said Sitharaman’s refusal to disclose the details showed it was a scam.
In its press release on Wednesday, the ministry accused the previous government of abandoning an initiative of 2002 – when the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance was in power – to boost the equipment strength of the Indian Air Force. Moreover, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government had also cited confidentiality when it refused to disclose prices of defence deals in Parliament, the government said.
“The approximate acquisition cost of the Rafale aircraft has already been provided to the Parliament,” the release said, adding that giving further details would compromise national security.
The Centre reiterated that its deal was better than the one negotiated by the previous government.
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.
Since November, the Congress has raised questions over the Narendra Modi government’s handling of the Rafale aircraft deal. Congress President Rahul Gandhi has accused Modi of altering the deal for the benefit of Anil Ambani-led Reliance Defence, but the company has denied these allegations. The party also claims that the deal was overpriced.