Defence minister Manohar Parrikar on Saturday described the deal to buy 36 Rafale combat jets from France as “oxygen” for the Indian Air Force but the BJP government came under fire from a senior party leader over the move.
The decision to purchase the jets in “fly-away condition”, announced after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s talks with President Francois Hollande on Friday, is aimed at making up a critical shortfall in the combat strength of the IAF, which is operating with 34 squadrons of 18 aircraft each against a requirement of 45 squadrons.
“Indian Air Force will get minimum oxygen it requires with this deal...In fact, we have not purchased any major new generation aircraft in 17 years,” Parrikar said.
The induction of the Rafale jets into the IAF may take two years “as fly-away does not mean we will get them tomorrow", he said.
However, the deal was attacked by senior BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, who described it as a case of arbitrariness.
“There are two major issues with the Rafale aircraft deal which would embarrass the BJP government. The first is that Rafale is (a) less fuel efficient aircraft and lacking in essential performance characteristics that no country in the world has agreed to buy these aircraft,” Swamy said in a statement.
Swamy said that he could even move court against the deal.
Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh ridiculed the position adopted by Swamy and tweeted: “I dare Subramanian Swamy to go to court on Rafale Jet purchase.”
Modi said the Rafale jets were being bought due to the “critical operational necessity” of the IAF.? The aircraft will be purchased through a government-to-government deal worth $4.2 billion, without any "Make in India" or technology transfer component, underlining the urgent need to replace ageing MiG-21 and MiG-27 jets that will be phased out by the IAF over the next few years.
Under the deal, French nuclear major Areva will set up six reactors with a generation capacity of 10,000 MW.
Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray is understood to have expressed his displeasure after the NDA government decided to go ahead with the plant, which has been opposed by his party. The Sena has been demanding the shifting the proposed plant as "it is not beneficial to the Konkani people".
( with PTI inputs)