While interacting with the media, Air Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa on Wednesday appreciated the NDA government for buying 36 off-the-shelf Rafale fighter jets from France, calling it a ‘bold step‘.
When asked whether the Indian Air Force (IAF) was informed and consulted before the procurement of the 36 fighter jets worth Rs 58,000 crore, Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa revealed that the air force was consulted at an appropriate level.
Calling the decision taken by the government a ‘game changer for the Indian defence system‘, Dhanoa maintained that the government was given some options by the IAF and the sole authority to make a choice amongst those options was that of the government.
Only three options were left when negotiations between Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd and Dassault reached an impasse- wait for something to happen, withdraw the RPF (request for proposal) or make an emergency purchase. We chose the last. In the past, too, we acquired two squadrons of the Dassault Mirage,” the Air Chief Marshal said.
Further commenting on the issue, the Air Chief said that both-the Rafale jets and the S-400 air defence systems, a deal for which is likely to be signed with Moscow during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to India, are like a “booster dose” for the air defence system.
India had confirmed that despite US sanctions, the S-400 Triumph missile system deal with Russia will be taken ahead and India will continue its strategic defence partnership with Russia.
Earlier in September as well, the Air Chief Marshal had said that by providing the Rafale jets and S-400 system, the government is strengthening the IAF to counter the shortfalls of the country’s depleting squadrons. The IAF vice-chief Air Marshal, SB Deo had also strongly endorsed the Rafale fighter jets, calling it a “beautiful” aircraft and saying it will give India an “unprecedented” combat advantage.
The Air Force chief’s statements come at the wake of the controversy around the Rafale fighter jet procurement deal. Despite repeated clarifications from the government that there have been no irregularities in the procurement of 36 Rafale jets from France, the opposition parties have been crying foul play over the government to government deal.
Rahul Gandhi had even got to the extent of lying on the floor of the Lok Sabha when he had claimed that French President Macron had told him that there was no confidentiality clause in the Rafale deal.
The BJP had, however, filed a privilege motion against the Congress President for his “baseless allegations” against the government and distorting the facts in the Parliament.
Recently, Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group had filed a Rs.5000 crore defamation lawsuit against National Herald for an alleged ‘libellous and derogatory’ article published on the Congress mouthpiece regarding the Rafale deal. Reliance group had also sent ‘cease and desist’ notice to Congress leaders stating that freedom of expression does not give politicians license to make distorted statements to suit their political interests.
Recently the Supreme Court has also listed a petition filed by a lawyer seeking a SIT probe into the Rafale deal.