Raising questions over the BJP government’s decision to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets from France in a fly-away condition, former defence minister A K Antony Saturday asked the government to clarify whether it followed the defence procurement procedure while concluding the agreement. He also asked whether the government consulted the Finance Ministry before inking the deal as it had objected to the selection process earlier.
Antony also said the government’s “shocking” decision to downsize the Mountain Strike Corps, meant to check incursions on the India-China border, was an “anti-national activity”. He said the delay in implementation of ‘one rank, one pension’ for ex-servicemen, which was approved in principle by the UPA, was “criminal inaction.”
Antony also claimed the BJP government spent only 87.25 per cent of the funds allocated to the Defence Ministry.
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar recently said Antony had put a question mark on the Rafale deal’s future by noting in the file that “go for price negotiations but after that review the procedure by which L1 (lowest bidder) was determined”. On Saturday, Antony hit back, claiming that soon after Rafale was selected as L1, he received a “series of complaints and allegations” from “senior-most opposition leaders, that too mainly from top-most BJP leaders”, including former finance minister Yashwant Sinha.
On the government’s decision to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets from France, he said the agreement negotiated by the UPA government was to buy 126 aircraft — out of which 18 would be in a fly-away condition. The other 108 were to be produced in India with HAL with a technology transfer component, he said, adding that the delay was because Dassault, which manufactures the Rafale, was not keen on technology transfer .
“He (Parrikar) knows very well what I had written in the file. After knowing the objections raised by senior-most BJP leaders and after knowing the objections raised by the Finance Minister, you went to France to buy 36 aircraft,” he said.
He added, “Have you consulted the Finance Ministry, can we proceed to buy 36 aircraft from this company? And what about technology transfer? Unless there is tech transfer, where is ‘Made in India’?”