Rafale deal: Congress scores a self goal with misplaced allegations and ill-informed criticism

Congress President Rahul Gandhi yesterday questioned Government of India for Rafale deal, implying corruption, favouritism in the procurement of the jets.

In all this, Gandhi forgot that it was in 2008 that Government of India entered into a Security Agreement which protects classified information and material exchanged under the Inter-Governmental Agreement. In 2008, A K Antony was the UPA government’s Defence Minister, who had entered into this agreement.

Moreover, in 2007, during a Parliament session, when Antony was asked details about purchasing missiles from Israel, Antony said, “divulging details in this regard on the floor of the House would not be in the interest of national security.”

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Not just that, there are more instances where Congress-led government said they could not disclose details of the defence deals keeping in mind the sensitivity of the details and national security.

Other than details of the purchase of missiles from Israel, UPA’s defence ministers refused to give details about the purchase of satellite for the Army, Henderson Brook Report on 1962 Indo-Sino war which still remains classified and unreleased, and damages caused by the crash of IAF aircrafts.

Coming to the allegations on Rafale deal, there are few points the opposition is attacking the government without realising that they are embarrassing themselves by putting up these questions. Here is a point by point explanation regarding the issues raised by the opposition.

1. Congress questions the ‘Secrecy Agreement’ which prohibits the government from disclosing the details in the purchase agreement.

The ‘Secrecy Agreement’ was originally entered into by A K Antony in 2008, the then Defence Minister under the UPA.

2. UPA claims they signed the deal for 126 Rafale aircrafts for $10.2 billion with the transfer of technology agreement. As against that NDA government is buying 36 Rafale aircrafts for $8.7 billion without transfer of technology agreement.

To make things clear, UPA never got into signing an agreement for Rafale deal. They were still in the negotiation stage. In 2001, Indian Air Force sought additional fighter jets. However, the actual procurement procedure started in 2007. Antony approved Request For Proposal (RFP) to procure 126 aircrafts in August 2007. While the initial deal was estimated at $10.8 billion, with 18 of them in flyaway condition and remaining to be built by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) under transfer of technology agreement. However, the deal never went through. The negotiations started from 2012 which had been going on for four years till the final agreement was signed in 2016. So the claims of Congress that they had signed a better deal than NDA, are factually incorrect.

More than that, the Rafale fighter jets are not part of conventional fighter squadron bean count in the strictest sense. The Indian Rafale is also a strategic delivery weapon for air-delivered nuclear devices. Which means, these jets are part of India’s nuclear missiles related mission. Hence, while they will also serve as conventional deterrents for their strategic location on Pakistan and China frontiers, their role is quite defined.

3. Private players are benefiting out of the deal.

In November 2017, Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala alleged a ‘huge scam’ in the Rafale deal and accused Modi Government of ‘promoting the interests of Prime Minister’s crony capitalist friends’. He accused Modi Government of violating Defence Procurement Procedure and bypassed interest of HAL. He cast aspersions on Anil Ambani led Reliance Defence Limited for alleged corruption. While Reliance has termed these allegations baseless the truth is far from what Congress is saying. Part of the agreement with French Government states that private players will be allowed to manufacture such jets to break the monopoly of HAL and also bring in competitiveness which would lead to better competitive rates and quality. Private players have been trying for decades to enter defence manufacture sector, but HAL is said to have a strong government lobby, which is why it never materialised. In May last year, the government gave nod to ‘strategic partnership’ policy in the defence sector which opened the doors for Indian private sector players to start manufacturing high-end defence equipment and weapons in partnership with foreign original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). With this, private players could enter four key segments in defence- fighter aircrafts, helicopters, submarines and armoured vehicles such as tanks.

The fact that Congress is attacking the government on these points just shows either they are hypocrites or are wilfully trying to misguide people by giving out partial and factually incorrect information.

Politically incorrect. Author, Flawed But Fabulous.

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