Former Defence minister A K Antony questions Rafale jet deal, demands JPC probe

The former defence minister accused Sitharaman of trying to tarnish the image of public-sector Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.

Published: 18th September 2018 03:05 PM  |   Last Updated: 19th September 2018 02:26 AM   |  A+A-

A K Antony

Former defence minister A K Antony addresses a press conference on the issue of Rafale deal in New Delhi. (Photo| Shekhar Yadav/ EPS)


NEW DELHI: Senior Congress leader A K Antony Tuesday accused Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman of "suppressing facts" on the Rafale deal and asked if the price finalised by the NDA was cheaper than negotiated by UPA why it bought only 36 aircraft and why not 126 aircraft.

The Congress leader also asked why the government was not setting up a joint parliamentary committee to probe the fighter jet deal and why it is shying away from it.

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, however, rejected the demand saying all the details on it have already been placed before Parliament.

READ| Supreme Court adjourns hearing on Rafale fighter jet deal till October 10

She, however, did not give any direct reply on Antony's charge on why the NDA did not buy more aircraft if its price was cheaper.

The Congress is meeting the CAG on Wednesday on the Rafale issue.

Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said the CAG and CVC are bounden by their constitutional duty to look at the entire deal and all its papers - whether or not somebody moves them.

"Congress Party at an appropriate time also intends to move an appropriate petition before CVC and CAG to expeditiously and quickly adhere to their constitutional duties," he said.

Antony also accused the government of being "guilty" of "gravely compromising" national security in the Rafale fighter jet deal and accused prime minister Narendra Modi of violating the defence procurement procredure (DPP).

"Since, there is a growing perception that the Modi government's Rafale purchase deal has more skeletons in its closet, let there be joint parliamentary (JPC) probe to bring out the truth," Antony told reporters at a press conference here.

"In JPC, the present Government has got the majority. Why they are afraid. Let there be a JPC and go through all the files. The JPC, consisting of majority of present Government, can call all the files from both the proposals of UPA and this Government. Let them make the study. So, why the Government is afraid of agreeing for our proposal for JPC. That means they have something to hide," he said.

Rejecting the charge levelled by Sitharaman that an unprecedented intervention by him in 2013 had put the "final nail in the coffin" when the cost negotiation committee was giving final touches to the deal, he said this is completely false.

"Her allegations are completely false and she is deliberately suppressing the facts," Antony said, adding when the proposal was sent to Finance Ministry, it did not support the life cycle cost concept.

The then Congress-led UPA government had received objections and reservations in written from several leaders, including a senior BJP MP.

"Then I directed that the negotiations to continue, but take it to the Cabinet Committee on Security, only after disputes are settled," Antony said.

The former defence minister accused Sitharaman of trying to tarnish the image of public-sector HAL both nationally and globally.

Sitharaman instead slammed the UPA alleging that it did not extend support to HAL, saying, "The UPA did not care for either the Indian Air Force or the HAL. To say that we are not taking care of HAL is totally incorrect."

Antony also asked if the price of the Rafale fighter jets were cheaper than that negotiated by the UPA, then why the government bought 36 aircrafts instead of 126 from the French company.

"Why did they not buy more than 126 if it was cheaper?" he asked.

"As per their claim, it is cheaper, why don't they go to get 126, but according to me, it is not cheaper - its substantive higher. Transfer of Technology is a costliest thing," he said.

"The Congress demands that the Modi government publish the price of the Congress-UPA's deal of 126 aircrafts and the price of its 36 Rafale deal, including per aircraft price of the same, to clear the doubts of the people and let the nation decide who is correct," he said.

He accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of unilateral purchase of 36 aircrafts on April 10, 2015.

"When the IAF demanded 126 aircrafts, who authorised the prime minister to reduce the number to 36?" he asked.

The requirement for 126 aircrafts was made by the IAF in 2000.

In 2018, the threat perception from our border nations has increased than what it was in 2000, Antony claimed.

He said HAL has manufactured 4,660 aircraft of 31 types, including the Sukhois and the MiG aircrafts.

He noted that the first aircraft will only be delivered by September 2019, with the final aircraft delivery going upto the September 2022, eight years after signing the Rafale deal of 36 aircrafts.

"This by itself proves that the National Security and our Defence preparedness have been severely compromised by Modi Government," he said.

The former defence minister also accused the prime minister of violating the defence procurement procedure, as according to it only the Defence Acquisition Council, chaired by the defence minister and consisting of the three service chiefs, can decide the number of aircrafts and weapons.

"Prime Minister Modi's decision is a clear violation of the DPP," he said.

The Modi government's Rafale deal "squanders" national interest by forgoing the ToT and India lost the opportunity to get the most modern technology to manufacture fighter aircrafts, Antony claimed.

Thousands of job opportunities of Indian technicians were lost at HAL, the former defence minister alleged.

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