Rajat Sharma

Controversy over Rafale deal should now be put to rest

aaj ki baat_frame_71699 (002)The Supreme Court, in a lengthy hearing, in two sittings on Wednesday, heard the Attorney General and counsels for petitioners the pros and cons of the French Rafale jet fighter aircraft deal, and later reserved its order. Senior officers from Defence Ministry and Indian Air Force also came to the court to reply to technical queries from the bench headed by Chief Justice of India Justice Ranjan Gogoi.

The entire controversy that has gripped the nation for the last several months is now fast moving towards a final conclusion. But there are points which needs to be pondered over.

In an exclusive interview to an Indian news agency, French company Dassault CEO Eric Trappier demolished most of the charges levelled by Congress President Rahul Gandhi against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Reliance ADA owner Anil Ambani in the Rafale fighter deal. Trappier clearly said that it was his company’s decision to select Reliance as offset partner. Moreover, there is not only one offset partner in this deal, but thirty companies who are offset partners.

The Dassault CEO also revealed that his company has initially invested Rs 40 crores in the joint venture formed with Reliance, and the entire investment would come to Rs 360 crore in the next five years. This goes completely against Rahul Gandhi’s charge that the Prime Minister “benefitted” Reliance to the extent of Rs 30,000 crore. Nobody knows from where Rahul Gandhi got this figure. He seems to be the best person to reveal his source.

Eric Trappier also revealed in the interview that Indian Air Force has bought 36 Rafale aircraft from his company at a price which is 9 per cent less compared to what was decided during UPA regime. Thirdly, it was the public sector company HAL which declined to become an offset partner in the Rafale deal. In other words, there was no pressure from the Indian government on Dassault to give the offset partner contract to Anil Ambani’s company.

The Dassault CEO also disclosed that the first Rafale fighter aircraft will be handed over to the Indian Air Force by September next year, and it would be equipped with radar warning system, helmet mounted signal, radio altimeter and Doppler radar, while the missiles that will be fitted to the fighter aircraft are part of a separate deal with missile manufacturers.

Rahul Gandhi and other opposition leaders had been demanding to know the exact price at which each Rafale aircraft was bought. The government has already conveyed the price in a sealed envelope to the Supreme Court.

Rahul Gandhi has been saying in public in most of his rallies and press conferences that the Modi government has not replied to his charges. The Prime Minister chose not to react, but the Finance Minister, Defence Minister, and even the IAF chief, have replied to most of his charges in public.

Now that the ball is in the Supreme Court, it would be better if this controversy is now put to rest, in the national interest.

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