Transactions between governments are always clean, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Wednesday as he demanded that the Congress show evidence that the Rafale deal with France was not good for the country. Speaking in an interview with ANI, Jaitley said his government had negotiated hard to keep prices in the deal lower by at least a fifth of what the previous government had negotiated in 2007.
The Congress has claimed that the government has negotiated a more expensive deal than the one its United Progressive Alliance government was negotiating with France in 2007.
“Every fact that they [Congress] have said on pricing is factually false,” Jaitley said in the interview. “[Congress chief] Mr Rahul Gandhi himself has given seven different prices in different speeches with regard to the Rafale, that is the 2007 offer. And the simple case is they have made it as if it is a kindergarten or primary school debate.”
Jaitley resumed charge as the finance minister on Thursday after being away for almost three months following a kidney transplant. He had defended the Rafale defence deal while he was on leave through blog posts.
He told ANI that each aircraft that India was going to get as part of the deal would be “fully loaded”. “Can you compare a basic aircraft’s pricing with a loaded aircraft?” he asked. “Can you compare a simple aircraft with a weaponised aircraft?”
Jaitley said: “[Former Defence Minister] Mr [AK] Antony fully read the file and abandoned the contract – he would tell his party [Congress] that the L1 offer of 2007 had a basic 2007 price plus escalation plus currency variation. In 2015 or 2016, this would have been 9% costlier than what the basic aircraft price of 2016 negotiated was… Loaded to unloaded, you compare the price again. The 2016 price is 20% cheaper than the 2007 offer. So we got it cheaper.”
Jaitley said all allegations made by Congress President Rahul Gandhi were false. No rules were bypassed for the deal, he said. He accused the Congress of compromising national security through policy paralysis as its government did not go ahead with the Rafale deal.
“Any responsible politician will know that government to government transactions are always clean,” Jaitley said in the interview. “Governments don’t pay kickbacks. It’s a transaction between government of India and government of France, publicly made and publicly declared terms...”
In September, India signed an inter-governmental deal with France to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets that would cost Rs 58,000 crore. On July 20, Gandhi lashed out at Modi and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in the Lok Sabha, claiming they had not been truthful about the deal with France.
In Parliament, Gandhi had asked the government why the contract was taken away from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and given to a businessman who has a lot of debt, an apparent reference to Anil Ambani.
The Congress president also claimed that French President Emmanuel Macron had told him that there was no secrecy pact between the two countries about the deal. Following Gandhi’s speech, France issued a statement that said a 2008 agreement between Paris and New Delhi mandated that the two countries would protect classified documents. That agreement applies to the Rafale deal as well, the French government said.