Sitharaman slams Congress, says allegations on Rafale deal shameful
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday rubbished all allegations leveled by the Congress party over the Rafale fighter aircraft deal, stating that the UPA regime which was previously in power for 10 years could not make a decision on the jets, despite recognising the depleting the combat strength of the Indian Air Force.
"Between 2004 and 2014, entire decade the UPA could not arrive at a decision. Twelve long years of negotiations and still (there was) no decision, although critically recognising the need for strengthening the Air Force," said Sitharaman while addressing a press conference here.
She accused the UPA regime of not attending to the IAF's key requirement for a decade and credited the NDA government for making the emergency purchase in a "fast and transparent" manner to plug capability gaps.
"Allegations relating to the Rafale deal are shameful, the deal was finalised following a transparent procedure," Sitharam countered.
She said the due process of clearance from the Cabinet Committee on Security was followed with an active participation of the defence minister Manohar Parrikar.
India floated a global tender in August 2007 to buy 126 planes but it stood cancelled after PM Narendra Modi declared in April 2015 India would buy 36 Rafales from France under a government-to-government deal.
She said while the UPA regime couldn't take a decision for 10 years, the NDA government quickly grasped the seriousness of the situation and followed the necessary procedure to hammer out a deal with a friendly foreign country. She said it was "shameful" that the previous government failed to serve the military's interests and was now "bickering" over price.
She asked defence secretary Sanjay Mitra to share with media the comparative cost of a Rafale jet as negotiated by the NDA government versus the UPA regime. The ministry, however, is yet to share those figures.
Apart from Sitharaman, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju also defended the deal.
The Congress had accused Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman of "misleading" the nation on the Rafale fighter aircraft deal by not making public the price of the aircraft, and alleged a "cover-up".