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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 45 New Delhi October 27, 2018

Rafale Deal: The Noose Tightens

Sunday 28 October 2018

POLITICAL NOTEBOOK

Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s press conference in New Delhi today saw his fiercest attack on Narendra Modi on the Rafale deal. Without mincing words Rahul bluntly said CBI Director Alok Verma was removed well after midnight because he was about to begin an inquiry into the Union Government’s Rafale purchase deal. This had caused the PM to panic. The CBI Director was removed unconstitutionally, illegally and criminally at the dead of night, and his office was searched to take away all sensitive documents pertaining to the Rafale deal that could have led to Modi being caught red-handed engaged in financial misdemeanour.

Not only was the contract for buying eighteen Rafale jets in a fly-away condition and manufacturing another 118 in India by the public sector Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd in collaboration with the Dassault company of France (the makers of Rafale) thrown out of the window, but Modi signed a new contract for purchasing thirtysix aircraft in a fly-away condition while the stipulated manufacture of aircraft was snatched away from the HAL and handed over to Modi’s friend Anil Ambani’s company (which has never built a single aircraft ever). Rahul said Anil Ambani accompanied the PM during his visit to Paris and Modi gifted him a contract for Rs 36,000 crores—a largesse of unimaginable proportion.

What is also significant, the HAL, much maligned by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman herself, has just handed over to the IAF the 200th Sukhoi SU-30MKI. The HAL is going to deliver an additional 22 SU-30-MKI by March, 2020. Negotiations are going on with the IAF for the manufacture of 40 to 60 more SU-30-MKI to shore up the IAF’s depleting fleet strength. Early acquisition of a new Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) is of utmost importance if India is to be able to fight a two-front war with Pakistan and China. It is because of this imperative that the IAF was pressing the government hard to acquire the Rafale aircraft which was selected after a series of field trials from among a number of competitors. The UPA Government had concluded the Rafale deal. The price agreed upon was Rs 560 crores per aircraft. Prime Minister Modi, while scrapping the agreement made by the UPA, also raised the price per aircraft from Rs 560 to Rs 1600 crores—another bonanza for his friend Anil.

What is most regrettable is the Defence Minister’s denigration of the state-owned HAL which has earned its name worldwide as an aircraft manufacturing company. Many countries buy aircraft made by the HAL for their air forces. The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is another body of scientists which is trying to make India self-reliant in the production of military hard- and soft-ware. The DRDO has made a pilotless tank that can be used for surveillance, mine detection and reconnaissance in areas hit by nuclear or biological weapons. Are the PM and Defence Minister even aware of these achievements by our defence scientists?

October 25 B.D.G.

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