Jaitley 'admits' post facto approval of Rafale deal

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley | Reuters Finance Minister Arun Jaitley | Reuters

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has alleged that the Congress party's false campaign on Rafale fighter jets is based on untruth, casting a cloud on the intergovernmental agreement (IGA).

Launching a fierce attack on the Congress within a week of resuming office, Jaitley accused the UPA of delaying the deal by over a decade, thereby seriously compromising national security, and posed 15 questions to 'expose Congress party’s falsehood'.

Citing alleged wrongdoings—from high cost and hiding facts to selection of a private firm in the Rafale warplanes deal—the Congress has been targeting the Modi government. The Congress is also alleging that due process under defence procurement procedures (DPP) were not followed by the NDA government before finalising the deal.

Jaitley revealed that approval for procuring 36 Rafale aircraft was taken by the defence acquisition council (DAC)—the highest body in the ministry of defence to decide on acquisitions—nearly a month after the deal was announced. This indicates post facto approval of the deal from the defence ministry.

"On 10th April, 2015, the Government of India and the French Government issued a joint statement where India decided to procure 36 Rafale aircrafts from the French Government on terms better than the ones conveyed by Dassault in the L1 (lowest one) bid of 2007. The same was approved by the DAC on 13th May, 2015 and finally the agreement, after a detailed procedure, was signed on 23rd September, 2016," Jaitley said in a Facebook post.

The Congress had alleged that the prime minister announced the deal without keeping the defence ministry in the loop. It was also alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi made grand announcement of the deal in the absence of defence minister, in Paris (Manohar Parrikar, who was the defence minister then, had not accompanied the prime minister during his visit).

Jaitley further said after the 1999 Kargil war, the government was of the opinion that combat ability of the Indian Air Force needed to be radically improved. "In principle approval for acceptance of necessity of procurement of 126 replacement aircrafts was recorded by the Raksha Mantri (defence minister) way back on 1st June, 2001," the finance minister wrote, adding, “After the UPA Government came into power, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) approved the Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) for procurement of 126 medium multi-role combat aircrafts.”

"An aircraft without weaponry is of little use in a war. It is only a flying instrument. It adds to the combat strength of the forces only when it is loaded with the requisite weaponry, which enables it to strike targets. The UPA Government issued a request for proposal on 28th August, 2007 and found two vendors, viz., M/s Dassault Aviation and M/s EADS to be compliant to the RFP requirements. It took the UPA five more years to commence the negotiations and in January, 2012 the Contract Negotiation Committee (CNC) determined Dassault Aviation to be L1,"Jaitley claimed. He added that for reasons best known to the UPA government, on June 27, 2012, the deal was directed to be re-examined, which effectively meant that the entire 11 year exercise was abandoned and the process was to be undertaken afresh.

"India’s squadron strength was depleting because of age. This slow and casual approach of the UPA Government seriously compromised national security requirements," he added.

Targeting Congress president Rahul Gandhi, the union finance minister said national political parties and its responsible leaders are expected to keep themselves informed of the basic facts before they enter a public discourse on defence transactions.

"I am asking these questions as his misadventure is impairing national interest and I hope Rahul Gandhi and the Congress Party would respond immediately," Arun Jaitley said while adding that the Congress party and Rahul Gandhi are guilty on three counts—first, the UPA delayed the deal by over a decade comprising national security; second, every fact raised by Rahul Gandhi and the Congress are completely false; and third, the party just wants to further delay the defence procurement so that India’s defence preparedness suffers.