Raising several questions over the Rs 59,000-crore Rafale fighter jet deal, Congress party has alleged that the absence of any provision of technology transfer would cost India “very heavily”. The much-anticipated defence deal was inked between India and France on Friday.
Criticising the deal, former Union Defence Minister AK 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.
He also contested the reports that the pact inked by NDA government on Friday saved nearly 750 million Euros than the one which was during the Congress-led UPA era.
“Today we read inspired pieces in some media, which claim the present Government has saved money by hard negotiations. That’s not true,” AK Antony said adding, “You can’t compare the Rafale deal price during UPA Government’s time and now.”
Addressing a press conference along with party spokesman Manish Tewari at the AICC headquarters in New Delhi, 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
India 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.
The pact was sealed in the presence of Union Defence minister Manohar Parrikar and his French counterpart Jean Yves Le Drian.
(With inputs from the PTI)