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Sitharaman blames UPA for not making HAL an ‘appealing’ enough partner for Rafale

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Defence minister says if negotiations were going on between Dassault and HAL, ‘the govt (UPA) could have done anything to strengthen HAL’s offer’. 

New Delhi: Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman Tuesday blamed the Congress-led UPA for not being able to make Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) appealing enough for the French Dassault Aviaton to enter into an agreement with it for manufacturing the Rafale fighter.

Sitharaman’s comments came hours after Congress leader A.K. Antony accused the minister of tarnishing the image of the public sector defence manufacturer.

“HAL and Dassault couldn’t agree on production terms… as a result, they could not go together. So (it) doesn’t that clearly say who didn’t go together with HAL, under which government that happened,” Sitharaman told mediapersons at the Indian Women’s Press Corps in New Delhi.

“To be repeatedly told ‘Oh, you haven’t taken care of HAL’, if anything, is misplaced,” she said, raising questions about whether HAL’s interests were taken care of during the UPA regime.

“All these attributes which are being put to us about HAL are not for us to answer. If the negotiations were going on between Dassault and HAL, the government (UPA) could have done anything to strengthen HAL’s offer, to make sure if HAL’s terms were appealing enough for Dassault to conclude it (agreement) with HAL.”

Also read: Modi govt’s Rafale deal has more skeletons in its closet: Former defence minister Antony

Sitharaman, however, did not speak about what measures the NDA government has taken in the last four years to strengthen HAL.

Asked why Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence was chosen as Dassault Aviation’s partner, the defence minister said the rules framed by the UPA stated that the manufacturer could enter into an agreement with anyone in the public or private sector to exercise offsets. The UPA was negotiating a deal for 126 Rafale aircraft, but did not conclude it.

Modi’s Paris visit

Sitharaman also said Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in April 2015, did not go to Paris to announce the deal. “He initiated the process,” she said. “All the due processes were followed.”

The approval of the Cabinet Committee on Security followed more than a year after the announcement in April 2015.

A joint statement issued by the Indian and French governments during Modi’s visit said that in the meeting between Modi and then-French President Francois Hollande, “Government of India conveyed to the Government of France that in view of the critical operational necessity for Multirole Combat Aircraft for Indian Air Force, Government of India would like to acquire 36 Rafale jets in fly-away condition as quickly as possible”.

The defence minister re-stated that the NDA government had succeeded in getting the fighter jets at a nine per cent cheaper rate than the basic price agreed by the UPA government.

“The ideal (fighter) squadron strength was 42; it has been coming down. So when Prime Minister Narendra Modi assessed the situation, it was our duty to get the Rafale,” she said.

Asked if the French government stood sovereign guarantor for the life-cycle cost of the aircraft, she said: “I don’t understand your question. It’s an inter-governmental agreement.”

Also read: There’s a humongous scam in the Rafale deal. It is called stupidity


Talking about the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) that India signed with the US on 6 September, Sitharaman said it is a historic step in strengthening India-US relations and a significant agreement, since no other non-NATO nation has signed such an agreement. She did not speak about the security implications of sharing communications data with the US.

On S-400

Sitharaman confirmed that the missile deal with Russia on the S-400 is almost final. However, she refused to reply if the deal will be inked during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to India in October.

On Sidhu’s hug

Asked about the controversy over Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu hugging Pakistan’s army chief, the defence minister said his going to Pakistan was not a problem, but hugging General Qamar Javed Bajwa was avoidable.

“It has an impact on the soldiers and people in the ministry, and the public response has also been similar,” she said.

On force restructuring

About the force restructuring exercise being considered by the Army, she said the discussions were as per the Shekatkar committee recommendations and a formal proposal to this effect has not yet come to her. The Shekatkar committee was appointed by the Centre to recommend reforms in the military. It submitted its report last year.

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  1. Always throughing the mistakes on others is very easy, but this our mother
    Land how to make strong nation which you have opportunity to do.( Not that
    Singing a song mera Sur tera sur hamara) go to hell with your party and policies and political game . Be truthful
    To your self . Sorry if I hurt you.

  2. Ok ma’am what is the steps you are going to take to over come UPA not promoted HAL to deal with RAFFEL ..
    now you do it ..
    Why monotaously only private people made suitable for this task ..some thing fishy ..
    History broken..why to promote corporate company ..who really want make from govt..
    HAL Must be given this deal..

  3. The present Raksha Mantri and her predecessor, for all their differences, are both highly regarded for their personal probity. Perhaps a structured debate between them on Doordarshan – a moderator is hardly required, since they are both very sober personalities – would go a long way in clarifying the issues that are in contention.

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