Govt says UPA failed to sign Rafale deal in 10 years, NDA completed it in 1 year

The government today clarified that it was merely following up negotiations with French aircraft maker Rafale started by the previous government and that the 2016 contract for 36 aircraft is better in terms of capability, price, equipment, delivery, maintenance, training, etc, than that notionally negotiated by the UPA government in a process it could not conclude in ten years.

Moreover, the present government completed these negotiations in just about one year.

It is also stressed that the procurement of 36 Rafale aircraft through an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) with France to meet the urgent need of the IAF is strictly in accordance with the Defence Procurement Procedure in all aspects, including mandating, conducting and monitoring of negotiations and seeking all necessary approvals, including that of the Cabinet Committee on Security, before entering into the IGA.

The aircraft, manufactured by French company Dassault Aviation, had already been evaluated successfully by IAF during 2009-10, it pointed out.

It may also be noted that contrary to the impression sought, to be created by the opposition, in the earlier proposal to procure Rafale, which ended in a stalemate, there was no provision for transfer of technology but only to manufacture under licence. The government was unable to agree on the terms for even that in its negotiations with the vendor, resulting in the long-drawn exercise under the earlier government ultimately turning futile.

Further, no Indian offset partner for the 2016 deal for 36 Rafale Aircraft has so far been selected by the vendor (DA) because as per the applicable guidelines, DA is free to select the Indian offset partners and provide their details at the time of seeking offset credits, or one year prior to discharge of offset obligation, it said.

The clarifications follow wild allegations by opposition Congress party over the 2016 Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) to procure 36 Rafale aircraft in fly-away condition from France. ''This would normally not have merited a response but for the serious damage being caused by the misleading statements, sought to be repeatedly perpetrated on a serious matter of national security,'' the government stated.

On the contrary, the release said, the UPA government failed to conclude a deal for 10 years after it was initiated in 2002, leaving the Indian Air Force and the country's defences in the lurch..

''In 2012, the then defence minister exercised an unprecedented personal veto on the laid down institutional process then underway for procurement of 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA,'' the government noted, adding, ''All this happened when there was an alarming decline in IAF's fighter strength.''

''To twist facts further, the government has been asked why it did not conduct negotiations with a particular company representing a competing fighter aircraft. It seems to have been conveniently forgotten that the then government itself had rejected that company's unsolicited offer made days after closure of the bid process, declared Rafale (DA) as the L1 bidder and had commenced negotiations with it in February 2012.''

On the demand that the government disclose the details and value of the contract for the Rafale aircraft contracted in 2016, it said the demand is unrealistic.  ''In keeping with confidentiality requirements, the UPA government had also expressed its inability to disclose the price of various defence procurements, including in its responses to Parliament Questions,'' it was pointed out.

''The approximate acquisition cost of the Rafale aircraft has already been provided to the Parliament. Provision of exact item-wise cost and other information will reveal, inter alia, details regarding the various customisations and weapons systems specially designed to augment the effectiveness and lethality of the assets, impact our military preparedness and compromise our national security. Such details would also come under the ambit of the security agreement signed in 2008. Thus, in not revealing the item-wise details of the contract, the Government is merely following in letter and spirit the confidentiality provisions of a bilateral India-France Agreement of 2008 signed by the previous government, it pointed out.