Jaitley, Reliance Defence rebut fresh allegations on Rafale deal

10 Aug 2018


Former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie on Wednesday joined activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan to assert that the Rafale fighter aircraft deal was the “biggest defence scam ever”, and accused the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government of “compromising national security”.

The trio told a press conference in New Delhi that the purchase of 36 Rafale jets from France is a “textbook case of criminal misconduct” by the government. Shourie said the deal was a “scandal much bigger than Bofors” and needs an urgent forensic audit to fix accountability. He said the secrecy clause in the agreement with France only binds India from revealing the technical specifications and operational capabilities of the aircraft, but does not restrain the government from disclosing the price.
The attack on the Rafale deal comes after a series of statements made by Congress president Rahul Gandhi to the effect that the government is trying to block attempts in the media to independently report the alleged scam.
Quoting a February 16, 2017 press release by French manufacturer Dassault Aviation and Reliance Defence, and a financial press release statement of Dassault for 2016, Bhushan, Shourie and Sinha said the total price of 36 aircraft is about Rs60,000 crore, which works out to be Rs1,660 crore per plane.
“This is more than double the price of the aircraft under the original 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) and almost Rs1,000 crore higher per aircraft than the price furnished by the government itself to Parliament on November 18, 2016,” they said in a joint press statement.
The trio alleged that the BJP-led government had agreed to buy the 36 aircraft with no additional add-ons and yet will pay Rs1,000 crore more per plane as compared to the earlier deal.
Shourie urged the opposition parties to raise the issue in the “same manner as the BJP had raised Bofors, which pales into insignificance when compared to the Rafale scandal”.
Shourie, Sinha and Bhushan said public sector unit Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), which was part of the original negotiations, was pushed out and a newly-minted company, Reliance Defence Ltd, bagged an offset contract. They said such an agreement between Reliance Defence and Dassault Aviation should have come after governmental approval.
Hours after the press meet, senior cabinet minister Arun Jaitley wrote in a blog post, “There is not a grain of truth in the wild allegations repeated today nor anything substantiating in the purported facts and voluminous documents marshalled to corroborate the baseless accusations.”
He added that the allegations constitute nothing but “reprocessed lies by forces increasingly desperate to prove their relevance”. He said the government had already responded effectively to every “distortion and misinformation” on the issue.
“Meanwhile, those raising alarm about the alleged danger to national security ought to realise their responsibility and refrain from politicising for narrow individual ends those very matters pertaining to defence of the nation that were consistently ignored by them and by those with whom they sympathise,” Jaitley wrote.
Rajesh Dhingra, chief executive officer of Reliance Defence and Aerospace, called allegations against Dassault's decision to select his company over HAL "a deliberate attempt to mislead".
“The defence ministry has no role in selection of Indian partners by foreign vendors. This has been position right from 2005 when offsets were first introduced. In more than 50 offset contracts signed till date, the same process has been followed. Therefore, it is a deliberate attempt to mislead," Dhingra said.
Dhingra said no fighter aircraft were to be made in India under the contract since all the aircraft are to be delivered in 'fly away’ condition from France.
He also questioned the logic that only HAL had the experience to make the fighter jets in India. "If we were to follow the above logic, would that mean that we will never create any new capability beyond what exists and will continue to import more than 70 per cent of our defence hardware," he said.
He also dismissed the basic premise that Dassault had given Rs30,000 crore worth of offset contract to Reliance as "totally unfounded". Dassault and its main suppliers have already indicated that more than 100 Indian companies would participate in the offset contracts including joint ventures with public sector firms such as HAL and Bharat Electricals Ltd (BEL), he said.

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