Rafale deal: To FM Jaitley’s ‘learn from Pranab Mukherjee’ jibe, Rahul Gandhi’s counter with documents

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New Delhi | February 09, 2018 6:39 PM

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said on Thursday that the UPA government had on 15 occasions told parliament that it would be against the interest of national security to reveal details of defence purchases. Rahul Gandhi, he said, should take lessons on national security from Pranab Mukherjee.

Rafale, Dassault aviation, Narendra Modi, Indian National Congress, Rahul Gandhi, Lok Sabha, Indian National Congress, Lok Sabha, India, Bharatiya Janata PartyCongress president Rahul Gandhi took to Twitter to counter FM Arun Jaitley’s charges.

Citing three parliamentary replies filed by the UPA government in Parliament, Congress president Rahul Gandhi today sought to once again build pressure on the government seeking details of the Rafale aircraft deal be made public. Addressing the parliament on Thursday, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley slammed the Congress president over his charge that the government’s silence on the cost details of the Rafale deal suggested that the government had something to hide in the Rafale deal. Addressing the house yesterday, Jaitley had cited “national security” behind the government’s refusal to divulge the details of the deal and suggested that Rahul Gandhi should take lessons from former President Pranab Mukherjee in this regard. Defending the government’s decision against divulging details of the deal to purchase 36 Rafale jets from France, Jaitley said that the UPA government had on 15 occasions told parliament that it would be against the interest of national security to reveal details of defence purchases. He had cited former Defence minister AK Antony and Mukherjee’s replies to the parliament as evidence.

Countering the FM, Rahul Gandhi today released three parliamentary replies by the UPA and claimed that the UPA maintained full transparency on prices of defence purchases. “Now do ask our Raksha Mantri to tell India how much each RAFALE jet cost,” the Congress president wrote. The three documents cited by Rahul include replies on aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov (March 15, 2010), Mirage 2000 (March 4, 2013) and on a proposal to procure 42 Sukhoi-30 MKI filed (August 9, 2010). “What is the price that the Prime Minister has spent on Rafale,” Gandhi had asked on Tuesday.

Replying to the debate on the Union Budget 2018, FM Jaitley charged the Congress of “manufacturing an allegation of corruption” on the Narendra Modi government. “When you could not find anything else, you said disclose the price of the Rafale deal,” Jaitley said, adding that the Congress was “seriously compromising on India’s security”. The Finance Minister’s charge drew loud protests from the Opposition benches.

Rahul Gandhi has led the Congress’ charge against the Modi government, alleging that the Prime Minister personally went to France and changed the contours of the roughly Rs 58,000-crore deal. The opposition began to mount pressure on the government over the deal soon after Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in parliament that details of the deal with France for the Rafale fighter jets cannot be disclosed as per the inter-governmental agreement as it is “classified information”. The minister’s reply came to a question on why the government was not divulging details of the deal. The Congress had earlier alleged that the price that the government was paying for the fighter jets was higher than what was finalised by the UPA in a previous deal for the purchase of 126 multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) jets deal.

“As per Article 10 of the Inter-Governmental Agreement between Governments of India and France on the purchase of Rafale aircraft, the protection of the classified information and material exchanged under IGA is governed by the provisions of the Security Agreement signed between Government of France and Government of India in 2008,” Sitharaman had said in Rajya Sabha. The Defence ministry has denied the Congress’ charge as “baseless and motivated”, IANS reported.

An Inter-government deal to buy 36 Rafale fighters was inked between India and France on September 23, 2016, after long negotiations and on the promise made by Prime Minister Modi during his visit to France in April 2015. The first batch of the 36 Rafale jets is set to arrive in India in 2019 and the order will be completed by 2022.

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