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Congress welcome to raise Rafale in Parliament, no scam there: Nirmala Sitharaman

India floated a global tender for 126 planes more than a decade ago but it stood cancelled after PM Narendra Modi declared in April 2015 that India would buy 36 Rafale jets from France under a government-to-government deal.

india Updated: Mar 04, 2018 07:18 IST
Rahul Singh
Rahul Singh
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Rafale deal,Bofors,Narendra Modi
Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman addresses a press conference in New Delhi.(HT File Photo)

The Congress is welcome to raise the Rafale deal during the upcoming leg of the Budget session, defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Saturday, but asserted that there were no irregularities in the pact with France to buy 36 fighter planes.

She was responding to a question by reporters on the likelihood of Congress raising the issue in Parliament.

The Congress has been raising questions about the $8.7 billion deal, alleging corruption and violation of procedures.

“Don’t even compare it with Bofors. There is no scam here,” Sitharaman said in reply to a question, referring to an alleged scam during a previous Congress government over the purchase of 410 howitzer guns from Swedish arms manufacturer Bofors.

India floated a global tender for 126 planes more than a decade ago but it stood cancelled after Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared in April 2015 that India would buy 36 Rafale jets from France under a government-to-government deal.

The Indian Air Force is looking at inducting the fighters by 2022 to bolster its combat capability.

The NDA government has accused the Congress of “manufacturing” corruption charges against it by questioning the Rafale deal.

The Opposition party has asked the government to reveal the purchase price of each aircraft but the Centre has said details cannot be disclosed as there is a clause on “classified information” in the inter-governmental agreement.

Responding to a question on the situation along the Line of Control, Sitharaman said India has been able to contain infiltrators from coming in to a large extent and that’s why “more skirmishes” were taking place.

“We are not allowing them (militants) to come in,” she said.

On the locally-built Tejas light combat aircraft, the minister said the government wanted Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to ramp up production of the fighters and deliver the upgraded Mk-II version at the earliest.

The IAF plans to deploy 123 Tejas planes over the next decade.

The IAF’s first Tejas squadron, raised in 2016, consists of only six planes. The slow rate of production of the aircraft is a reason to worry for the IAF.

HAL says it is ready to produce eight Tejas aircraft per year and is ramping up the production rate to 16 planes by 2019-20 by investing Rs 1,331 crore. HAL says it can deliver 16 to 24 jets 2021 onwards.

First Published: Mar 03, 2018 22:00 IST