A day after India inked the Rafale deal with France, Congress Saturday raised a series of questions and demanded that the contract be made public. It said there was massive escalation in cost from the price estimated by the UPA government, and said that the absence of provision of technology transfer would cost India heavily.
Former Defence Minister A K Antony argued that the IAF currently has 32 fighter squadrons against an authorisation of 42, and these 36 aircraft make for only two squadrons. “Is it enough to meet the operational requirements of the Indian Air Force?” he asked. He said the UPA had decided to purchase 126 aircraft to meet urgent requirements of the Indian Air Force.
“Of late, the security situation is becoming more and more critical and volatile… How will the government equip the air force with more aircraft? What is the plan? During UPA’s time, it was decided to purchase 126 aircraft, now it is only 36 fighter jets. How they will fill the gap, especially when Pakistan is building more and more air strength?,” he asked.
He said the agreement negotiated by the UPA government was to buy 126 aircraft, out of which 18 were to be in a flyaway condition. The rest were to be produced in India with HAL with a technology transfer component. “That condition is gone. Make-in-India is gone. There is no provision/condition for transfer of technology… This will cost us very heavily,” he said.
Addressing a press meet at the AICC office with Antony, Congress leader Manish Tewari asked, “Is it true that when the UPA left, the non-negotiated price of the Rafale was in the range of Rs 715 crore an aircraft, and what has been negotiated today for 36 jets in flyaway condition is
Rs 1,600 crore per aircraft, which is 123 per cent escalation?”