Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday accused the Congress of misleading the nation on the Rafale deal with France, and reiterated her rejection of claims of irregularities in the deal. She said the details about the offset partners in the deal will be known once the procurement of aircraft begins, PTI reported.
The minister said the original equipment maker was the sole decision-maker in the selection of an offset partner. Sitharaman was speaking at a summit organised by The Economist.
“The allegations that the Congress party is making are baseless,” The Week quoted her as saying. “We have not ducked any question, we have not tried to deter them from asking questions and because we are answering questions, they are moving from one milepost to another.”
The Narendra Modi-led government signed an inter-governmental agreement with France in 2016 to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets at a cost of Rs 58,000 crore. Soon after, Anil Ambani’s Reliance entered the deal as an offset partner for the jet’s manufacturer Dassault Aviation – a selection that has been questioned by the Opposition.
Sitharaman said: “Dassault and two or three companies are participating in the supply of Rafale. So each one of them will have an offset obligation to be fulfilled.” She added that each company involved will have their offset partners in India.
“Till such time they claim each and everyone of them, I will not know whether they are with one, or ten or with hundred [Indian offset partners],” the minister said.