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Rahul Gandhi is wrong on Rafale deal, Nirmala Sitharaman cites Macron interview to assert secrecy clause

During the debate on no-confidence motion, Sitharaman said the India-France agreement to buy the fighter jets was signed in 2008 by the then-defence minister A K Antony and it had the confidentiality clause.

india Updated: Jul 20, 2018 18:37 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Rafale deal,Rahul Gandhi,Nirmala Sitharaman
Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman speaks in the Lok Sabha on 'no-confidence motion' during the Monsoon Session of Parliament, in New Delhi on July 20.(PTI Photo)

Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday cited French President Emmanuel Macron’s interviews to dismiss Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s claim that there was no confidentiality clause in the Rafale aircraft deal with France.

Sitharaman was responding to Gandhi’s attack on the Modi government and her over the Rafale deal during the debate on no-confidence motion against the NDA government in Lok Sabha.

He had alleged that she had spoken “untruth” “under pressure from Modi” when she claimed that the Indian government could not reveal details of the deal due to a confidentiality clause in the agreement with France. He said he had been told thus by Macron personally.

Sitharaman said the India-France agreement to buy the fighter jets was signed in 2008 by the then-defence minister A K Antony and it had the confidentiality clause.

“It was an agreement of secrecy. Protection of classified information. I am not privy to what the French president told Rahul Gandhi,” she said and referred to two interviews Macron had given to Indian TV channels to assert confidentiality aspect.

“In the interviews, the French President had said that commercial details of the Rafale deal cannot be revealed,” she said.

Sitharaman quoted the French President: “You have these commercial agreements and obviously you have competitors and we cannot reveal the details.”

The defence minister said, “Whatever Rahul Gandhi said was absolutely wrong and there is no proof.”

Participating in the debate, Gandhi accused the defence minister of speaking “untruth” on the deal.

He also demanded the Prime Minister’s response on why this contract was given to a particular businessman after taking it away from PSU Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

“Everybody understands the relationship the prime minister has with certain people. One of those people was given the Rafale contract.... The gentleman benefited to the tune of Rs 45,000 crore,” he alleged.

India has signed a government-to-government deal with France in 2016 to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets at a cost of about Rs 58,000 crore.

Demanding that its details be made public, the Congress has alleged that the deal negotiated under its rule was much cheaper than the one signed by the Modi government.

(With PTI inputs)

First Published: Jul 20, 2018 18:14 IST