Purchase of more Rafales was raised by France last month: Defence Minister

Allegations against Rafale deal 'shameful', 'disservice' to armed forces Nirmala Sitharaman

Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday attacked the Congress for leveling "shameful and unfounded" allegations against the Rs 59,000 crore (7.87 billion Euro) contract for 36 French Rafale fighters, while stressing that the previous UPA regime had shown abject indecisiveness by failing to conclude the deal despite realising it was a critical operational necessity for the IAF.

"Dear RM, what's shameful is your boss silencing you".

The deal for buying 126 Rafale fighter jets - with 108 to be made in India - from France was initiated in 2000, she said, and the UPA government had started negotiating the price with the L-1 (lowest bidder), Dassault Aviation of France, in December 2012.

But Sitharaman, despite repeated and pointed questions, did not provide the "comparative costs per aircraft" between the 36-fighter contract inked by the NDA government in September 2016 and the original 126-fighter deal under negotiation during the UPA government's tenure.

Mr Gandhi's retort comes a day after Ms Sitharaman alleged that it was shameful on part of the Congress to raise objections on the fighter aircraft deal.

She said the present government addressed the "vacuum" in the national security structure created by the indecisiveness of the UPA dispensation by "immediately" going for procurement of 36 aircraft in a fly-away condition.

Rahul questioning why the deal given to a businessman with "no experience" is a repeat of a question he tweeted also two days ago on Thursday: "Can you explain "Reliance" on someone with nil experience in aerospace for Rafale deal?" "The price we arrived at is lesser", she said. "The government has negotiated a very good deal".

"That was the grim situation when this government came to power in 2014 and, therefore, we had to move forward so that the air force is not left with unattended requirements for the sake of preparedness", she said.

She also asked the Minister to take concrete steps on the subject ahead of the State government's proposal to conduct the Global Investors Meet scheduled in September 2018.

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