Rafale Controversy : Everything That Is Known So Far

On the last day of the monsoon session, Congress leader Sonia Gandhi and the party president Rahul Gandhi protested over NDA’s Rafale deal. The duo continue to blame the Modi Government for the unprecedented deal with France and demand to open the pricing policy of the complete transaction through a Joint Parliamentary Commission (JPC).

Rahul Gandhi has referred to this deal as the biggest scam ever in the country where some private organisations are being benefitted. However, Finance Minister Arun Jaitely defended the activity saying that the deal is supposed to be a secret and that Gandhi needs to learn ‘lessons on national security’ from former Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

What is the deal?

In 2015, PM Modi had announced that India would buy 126 Rafale Jet fighter planes from Russia, France and United States. Out of the total number, 36 were to be bought from a French aircraft company named Dassault. The original plan was that India would buy 18 off-the-shelf jets from France’s Dassault Aviation, with 108 others being assembled in India by the state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited or HAL in Bengaluru.

Now back in 2012, when the UPA Government was in power, there were a lot of costing issues and a single Rafale would cost Rs.680 crore. Now after 3 years, in 2015 Modi decided to purchase 36 ready to fly fighter planes instead of importing the technology from the Dassault Aviations, aiding the HAL to assemble the plane in India. And this time the cost of these ready to fly planes rose to Rs.1600 crore each.

Moreover, for these Rafales, the NDA Government has decided to give the contract of 50 % partnership with Dassault Aviations, to Reliance Defence Limited owned by Anil Ambani, instead of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited or HAL.

The allegations by the Congress party :

1. In November 2016, the actual political warfare began when the Congress party accused that the Rafale deal is the biggest scam ever in the country and that the taxpayer’s money worth Rs. 58,000 crores has been a waste.

2. The second allegation made by the opposition party against the deal was that the company lead by Anil Ambani had been unfairly picked up for the partnership. How a private company (Reliance Defence), which is not yet into existence given a contract, is the actual question raised.

3. And the last allegation made is that the cost of each aircraft (Rs.1600 crore) is three times more than what the previous Government (UPA) had negotiated (Rs.680 crore).

The party demands a Joint Parliamentary Commission to open up the pricing policy of the deal.

Stand of the Modi Government :

1. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and the Anil Ambani led company shielded saying that the deal was much better than that negotiated by the UPA Government. This deal involves superior weapon packages and logistical support.

2. Reliance Defence had also said that its subsidiary Reliance Aerostructure and Dassault Aviation formed a joint venture – Dassault Reliance Aerospace, after a bilateral agreement between two private companies and “the Indian government has no role to play in this.”

3. Officials say that due to national security reasons, there is a confidentiality clause in the Rafale deal which bars the buyer and seller from talking about the pricing, making it impossible for any government to reveal any detail about the defence deals. In the recent times, the President of France also supported this saying that every detail can’t be made public.

About the Rafale Jet fighter plane :

Rafale actually means ‘a burst of fire’ or ‘a gust of wind’. Equipped with a wide range of weapons, the Rafale is intended to perform air supremacy, interdiction, aerial reconnaissance, ground support, in-depth strike, anti-ship strike and nuclear deterrence missions. The Rafale is referred to as an “omnirole” aircraft by Dassault. The Rafale aircraft is fitted with on board oxygen generating system which reduces the need to refilling which helps flying for longer duration and space.