The Ministry of Defence Wednesday called the Opposition’s charges on the deal for 36 Rafale fighters “unfounded” and said “serious damage (was) being caused by the misleading statements” on a “serious matter of national security”. The MoD in a statement said that “the deal secured by the (present) Government is better in terms of capability, price, equipment, delivery, maintenance, training, etc.” than the one negotiated by the UPA government for 126 Rafale fighter aircraft.
The government’s statement comes after the Opposition criticised Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s answer to a question in the Rajya Sabha on Monday that the cost per Rafale aircraft being bought from France could not be shared since as it was “classified information” under the security agreement between India and France.
In the statement, the MoD said, “In not revealing the item-wise details of the contract, the Government is merely following in letter and spirit the confidentiality provisions of a bilateral India-France Agreement of 2008 signed by the previous Government.”
The MoD statement referred to the “Agreement between The Government of the Republic of India and The Government of the French Republic concerning the Protection of Classified Information and Material in the field of Defence”, signed in New Delhi on January 25, 2008.
Article 11(3) of the Agreement states: “For any contract or sub-contracting contract that includes classified information and material, a security annex shall be drawn up. In this annex, the competent security authority from the Party forwarding the information or the material, shall specify what has to be protected by the Receiving Party, as well as the corresponding classification level, applicable to it.”
According to Article 18(3) of the Agreement: “This Agreement shall remain in force for a period of 10 years. It shall be renewed by tacit consent for a new five-year period unless one of the Parties notifies the other Party of its intention not to renew it in writing six months prior to the end of its current period of validity.”
The initial 10-year period of the Agreement ended on January 24.
In November 2016, the MoD in a written response to a Lok Sabha question had said that the “cost of each Rafale aircraft is around Rs 670 crore”. The government is bound to provide the full information to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), the Standing Committee on Defence and the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG).
After signing the deal with France in September 2016, top MoD officials had given the breakdown of the Euro 7.9 billion deal, as reported by The Indian Express.
The basic cost of 36 aircraft was Euro 3,402 million (approximately Rs 670 crore per aircraft), the weaponry cost Euro 710 million, spare parts cost Euro 1,800 million, weather and terrain compatibility fits costed Euro 1,700 million and the performance based logistics support was priced at Euro 353 million.
The MoD statement stated that the procurement of 36 Rafale aircraft from France was “to meet the urgent need of the IAF”.