Cong critical of Rafale deal, wants contract to be made public

Cong critical of Rafale deal, wants contract to be made public
Raising several questions over the Rs 59,000-crore Rafale fighter jet deal, Congress today said the absence of any provision of technology transfer would cost India "very heavily". Former Defence Minister A K Antony also demanded making public the inter-governmental agreement with France. He wondered how India would bridge the gap with respect to China and Pakistan by acquiring just 36 aircraft when the original plan was for 126.

Addressing a press conference along with party spokesman Manish Tewari at the AICC headquarters, Antony lamented that the idea of 'Make in India' which was there in the original plan has also "gone" in the present deal. "During UPA, we had planned to buy 126 aircraft to strengthen IAF which was its urgent operational requirement considering security situation in the country," Antony said wondering why only 36 aircraft were being bought.

"Is it enough to meet operational requirement of the IAF which has a sanctioned strength of 42 squadrons and.... at present there are just 32 squadrons?", Antony asked. A squadron has generally 18 aircraft. Suggesting that more aircraft were necessary for the operational requirement of the IAF, he said, otherwise, by 2022 the squadron available with IAF would be reduced to 25. "I don't want to comment on the present price before I know the exact details. Government must publish the details of the final contract," Antony said.

"Today we read inspired pieces in some media, which claim the present Government has saved money by hard negotiations. That's not true!", he said adding, "You can't compare the Rafale deal price during UPA Government's time and now." India yesterday inked a Euro 7.87 billion (approx Rs 59,000) deal with France for purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets capable of carrying nuclear weapons and equipped with latest missiles that will give the IAF greater "potency" over arch rival Pakistan.

Antony wanted to know from the government how it would equip the Air Force with more aircraft at a time when Pakistan is building its air strength. The former Defence Minister said that during UPA rule, he received complaints from many quarters, even from former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha, on the price issue because of the fact that the concept of life cycle cost has been introduced.
"When there is a complaint that the price is high, we decided to enquire about that. We decided to wait for the final decision of the Finance Ministry," he said, seeking to know the decision of the Finance Ministry on the issue.

Tewari said government needs to tell in deail what is the "fine print" of the contract which has been negotiated and what was the "fine print" of the contract which UPA Government was negotiating when it left office in 2014. Tewari sought to know whether it is true that when the UPA left, the non-negotiated price of the Rafale was in the range of Rs 715 crore per sircraft and what has been negotiated today for the 36 Aircrafts in a fly-away condition is Rs 1600 crore per aircraft which is 123 per cent escalation?

"There are serious concerns which have been raised by the people who follow the entire gamut of defence and strategic affairs. So, isn't it incumbent on the Government to clarify or putting everything out in the public domain?",he said. He wanted to know whether the inter-governmental agreement which has been negotiated and the commercial contract which has been signed either do not have an 'Options Clause' or have a 'Part Options Clause?'.

Not having an options clause means after the delivery of the 36 aircraft, if India wants to procure more Rafales, it will have to negotiate the price afresh with the company. "Is it really an inter-governmental agreement on the lines of the United States Foreign Military Sales Agreement or is it an agreement between the Government of India and the company with the French Government only providing a Comfort Letter?", he added.

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