Defending the NDA government over the Rafale deal, Union Minister of State for External Affairs V K Singh on Wednesday warned that if he opened his mouth, then those making allegations against the government “will not be able to show their faces”.
Singh, a former Indian Army chief, made the comments while launching ‘Bharat ke Mann ki Baat, Modi ke saath’, a campaign by the BJP’s city unit.
Singh said during his tenure, he had “raised his voice against the procurement of Tatra trucks. We were to purchase 6,000 trucks, the price of which was Rs 25 lakh each, but it was being sold to us for Rs one crore. I am not going into where the remaining money went.”
The Union minister added, “Those claiming corruption in the Rafale deal will not be able to show their faces. It is better that I keep quiet.”
Singh said the allegations over the Rafale deal were being made on the basis of incomplete information. The deal should not be looked at it in isolation, but should be considered in its entirety, with all the associated factors, he said.
“There is a long process… before making a decision on the procurement of weapons. The deal is made based on the demands of the defence sector. The negotiations on price are carried out later and finalised on the basis of what’s good for the country,” he said.
The Union minister said the controversy over the offset partner in the deal was uncalled for as it was decided by the supplying company, not the government. Singh said if the French company was not satisfied with Hindustan Aerounatics Ltd (HAL) as an offset partner, then it was the company’s decision and not one made by the government. “We have observed HAL’s performance. Two pilots died in a crash recently. The programme of manufacturing aircraft is running late by three-and-a-half years. We are refurbishing the eighth aircraft as of now. The parts of the aircraft fall apart on the runway itself. Is that the capability? Even after that, an issue is being raised about the work not being given to HAL,” said the Union minister.
He said the previous government had completed the process of procuring 126 Rafale aircraft, but cancelled the deal at the last minute, despite the demand by the Air Force to increase its capability by adding more squadrons in service.
Singh said the deal was being made into a political issue by the opposition. “The controversy is created by a strategist in the opposition parties to make the Rafale deal look similar to the Bofors issue,” he said.
Back in the 1960s, the then Union government had planned to build an indigenously developed aircraft, Marut, said Singh, adding that the plan didn’t take off because an appropriate engine couldn’t be manufactured.
“We scrapped the project. Later, the French government wanted to study the aircraft, which the then government allowed, saying there was no harm as it was a static plane. The French government studied it and on that basis, started the Mirage series. Thereafter, there was loss of entire data about the aircraft, so no future development could take place. If allegations are made against the Union government on these issues, then who should be held responsible for this. This is the biggest treason,” he said.
Had the Marut aircraft worked, the aircraft manufactured in India would have been better than the Rafale, said Singh.
The Union minister said the situation was the same with Tejas aircraft. “Tejas faces the same problems. We don’t have an engine and had to import it. The foreign aerounatical industry is insecure with our work… so, if we are able to get technology transfer, then it is good for us…,” he said.