Hours after Congress veteran AK Antony accused Nirmala Sitharaman of trying to tarnish the image of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), the defence minister on Tuesday said the state-run entity was dropped from the Rafale deal by the UPA government itself. Sitharaman said since HAL and Dassault Aviation, the French firm that produces Rafale, could not concur on the production terms, it was dropped from the agreement by the Congress government.
“HAL and Dassault couldn’t agree on production terms. So HAL and Rafale couldn’t go together. Doesn’t that very clearly say who didn’t go together with HAL and under which government it happened,” Sitharaman said during an interaction at the Indian Women’s Press Corps (IWPC).
The Congress has alleged that state-run HAL was overlooked for Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group to meet the ‘offset’ or export obligation in the contract because of the businessman’s reported proximity with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Earlier in the day, Antony lambasted Sitharaman on her claim that HAL did not have the required capability to produce the jets in India. “She has tarnished the image of HAL, which is the only company that can manufacture the fighter aircraft in India. We don’t know what her intentions were in ridiculing a public sector undertaking under her own Ministry,” said Antony.
Sidhu’s hug with Pakistan army chief impacted soldiers back home: Sitharaman
Reacting to the controversy over Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu’s Pakistan visit for the swearing-in of Imran Khan as Prime Minister, Sitharaman said the former cricketer’s hug with Pakistan’s army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa impacted soldiers back home.
“Sidhu has a lot of admirers…somebody of that stature going there and then hugging the chief of the army, an army about which in India we have very clear feelings, it certainly has an impact on soldiers…, it demoralises the people. I wish Sidhu would have avoided it (hug),” she said.
Sidhu had claimed that he hugged Bajwa as the army chief told him that the Pakistan government was working towards the opening of the Kartarpur corridor for Sikh pilgrims from Punjab.