Major controversy over the cost of the deal prompted questions in Parliament, but defence minister says pricing cannot be shared.
New Delhi: Details of the Rafale fighter jet deal cannot be revealed in Parliament due to a secrecy pact with France, the government has said after several questions were raised on the pricing of the combat aircraft.
Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman told the Rajya Sabha that details like the per-aircraft cost cannot be shared, as India has a secrecy pact that applies to the deal.
“As per ‘Article-10’ of the Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) between Government of India and Government of France on the purchase of Rafale aircraft, the protection of the classified information and material exchanged under IGA is governed by the provisions of the Security Agreement signed between the two nations in 2008,” the minister said in reply to a question raised in Rajya Sabha.
The Rafale deal courted controversy after the Congress raised allegations that it was overpriced, and that Reliance Defence, owned by Anil Ambani, was favoured by the government. These allegations have been strongly denied by both the BJP and Reliance Defence.
As reported by ThePrint, months before it signed the deal to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets from France in 2016, the NDA government passed over another European offer that promised deliveries of the Eurofighter Typhoon combat aircraft, which was €59 million per unit cheaper than the French planes.
The offer – made at the top level of the Indian government – involved diverting deliveries of Eurofighter Typhoon jets from Britain, Italy and Germany to meet urgent Indian requirements.
The Eurofighter Typhoon had been offered at a total cost of €17.5 billion for 126 fighters, or €138 million per plane. The Rafale deal cost India €7.1 billion for 36 jets, which translates to €197 million per jet.
Even if the €353 million performance-based logistics cost – the money to maintain and fly the fighters for five years – is deducted, the Rafale jets cost India €187 million per fighter.
India is due to get 36 Rafale jets by the end of 2019 – a much needed addition to the Air Force that is desperate for cutting edge fighters. The Air Force is also keen to add to this fleet with more orders, given the unreliability of the existing Russian fleet and delays in inducting the indigenous Tejas.