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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 40 New Delhi September 22, 2018

Rafale Aircraft Deal: A Joint Parliamentary Committee should be Formed to Investigate Socialist Party’s Demand

Tuesday 25 September 2018

The following is the press release of a statement by Dr Prem Singh, President of the Socialist Party (India).

The matter of purchase of Rafale fighter aircraft from France has consistently remained within the realm of suspicion. There are allegations that this deal is the largest defence scam so far in India. The Rs 64-crore Bofors gun scam does not stand anywhere in comparison to the Rs 1000-crore scam of the Rafale deal. It is becoming gradually evident by various facts percolating from various sources that the Prime Minister, by violating the norms/rules, has taken a risk with the country’s defence mechanism and has allowed the loot of the government exchequer for the benefit of a particular industrialist. It is also alleged that the government has made contradictory statements in this entire case and has misled Parliament. Prima facie it seems that there are lots of untoward happenings within the deal. The Modi Government does not have a satis-factory answer to the allegations. It has been trying to cover all the facts related to the deal under the cover of the 2008 secrecy provisions. The French Government is doing the same.

The previous UPA Government wanted to buy 126 Rafale aircraft from the French company, Dassault, to strengthen the Air Force. Since the Congress Government had suffered loss of face from the Bofors gun deal, it was over-cautious about this deal. That’s why, for the defence deals, the committees of Defence Ministry and concerned departments of the armies were formed. The recommendations of these committees were mandatory for making any defence deal. Under this arrangement, every defence deal used to pass through several phases. The deal of the Rafale aircraft passed through all these stages and it was decided to purchase 126 aircraft considering the need to renew the Air Force’s six squadrons. The Rafale aircraft is capable of carrying nuclear weapons and it has two engines. There is also an inbuilt radar developed in the US.

At that time the government’s intention was to bring the technology to the domestic industries to make them self-reliant in defence production. It held long discussions in 2012 to buy the aircraft at reasonable rates. There was a decision that every aircraft will cost Rs 670 crores and 18 aircraft will be brought directly from France, and 108 aircraft will be manufactured in the public sector undertaking, the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), with the parts brought from France. Meanwhile the government at the Centre changed. The new NDA Government continued the talks. In 2015, the CEO of Dassault, the aircraft manufacturer, came to India and stated that the talks have ended and the prices have also been confirmed. But to benefit a capitalist, it is alleged, Prime Minister Narendra Modi overturned all the procedures and conditions of the deal in just two days without taking the Air Force, the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Ministry into confidence. In the ‘new deal’ the government decided to purchase 36 aircraft instead of 126. That too at the rate of Rs 1660 crores per aircraft instead of original cost of Rs 670 crores per aircraft. Earlier it was decided that the components of the aircraft will be brought from the outside and HAL will assemble them. It is now decided that technology transfer should not be necessary. All 36 aircraft will be made by Dassault only.

Making fun of the ‘Make-In-India’ slogan, a public sector company like the HAL was eliminated from the process of the deal and instead Anil Ambani’s new and inexperienced company, Reliance Defence Ltd, was created to grab the deal. Reliance owner Anil Ambani constituted a joint venture with Dassault with the tacit help of the Prime Minister. It also came to light that Reliance had signed an agreement worth Rs 20 million to help French President Francois Hollende’s actress partner, Julie Gayet, to produce a film.

  There was a plea by the government to justify a sudden increase of Rs 1000 crores per aircraft, stating that special type of equipments had been fitted up in the aircraft specially for the needs in India. But the utility of those equip-ments have not been certified by the Army Committees. The Socialist Party does not want to comment on the statements of Air Chief Marshal and Air Marshal, who came to the rescue of the government on this dispute. But it expresses its concern over openly taking the side of a private company instead of HAL, a public sector undertaking. The government’s second plea was that it is urgent to get the aircraft right away. But what is the justification in over-turning the entire process of the deal for this? Despite the all-out overturn of the deal, the first aircraft will come from France in September 2019.

The Socialist Party believes that the truth of the Rafale aircraft deal, that has come under suspicion, should be made known to the people of the country. The first responsibility for this is with the Central Government and the Prime Minister himself. The political parties, who are part of the BJP-led government, also owe a responsibility to the nation. They should come forward to dispel the doubts and suspicions spread about this deal.

The Socialist Party demands that for a fair investigation of the entire matter, the govern-ment should immediately constitute the Joint Parliamentary Committee.

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