Deal did not happen in UPA regime: Nirmala

Deal did not happen in UPA regime: Nirmala

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman addresses a press conference, in New Delhi, Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018. (PTI Photo)

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday charged the Congress-led UPA government for its failure to conclude the protracted negotiations between Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and Dassault Aviation because of which Rafale fighter jets couldn’t be manufactured at the HAL factory.

“The Rafale deal didn’t happen during the UPA. What also didn’t happen during the UPA regime was that HAL and Dassault couldn’t agree on production terms. So HAL and Rafale couldn’t go together. Doesn’t that very clearly say who didn’t go together with HAL, under which government did that happen?” Sitharaman said at an interaction with journalists here.

Absence of HAL in the controversial deal and inclusion of Anil Ambani-led Reliance Defence as an offset partner, is one of the contentious points in the rafale deal on which Modi government came under attack from the opposition parties led by the Congress.

Sitharaman, too, claimed the Rafale deal inked by the Narendra Modi government was 9% cheaper than what was being negotiated by the UPA under defence minister A K Antony. Responding to queries on the allegations of inking an expensive deal, she said, “We have responded saying your (Cong) basic price and the basic price that I (BJP) am getting at, when compared with all the escalation and other things, is 9% cheaper.”

“The price of a fully weaponised (Rafale) combat jet as per the contract inked by the NDA government was 20% cheaper than the price negotiated by the United Progressive Alliance.

Even the price of the basic aircraft (without weapons and India-specific add on) was 9% cheaper in the new deal, Jaitley wrote in a blog post.

Asked whether Prime Minister Modi obtained an approval of Cabinet Committee of Security before the announcement of a government-to-government contract to buy 36 Rafale jets, Sitharaman said in April 2015, there was just an expression of interest, the actual working of the deal happened one and half years later.

“PM in 2015 said we would like this agreement and we may go for it. Negotiations were initiated after this. PM and President don't discuss details of a deal,” she said in a bid to counter the criticism of Modi violating defence procurement process norms.

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