New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi compromised national security with the Rafale defence deal alleged, Advocate Prashant Bhushan and former Bharatiya Janata Party leaders Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie on Tuesday. They were speaking at the Press Club in New Delhi on Tuesday.
India signed an inter-governmental agreement with France in 2016 to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets, at a cost of Rs 58,000 crore. The government has refused to reveal the per-plane price that it has negotiated in the deal, citing a secrecy agreement with France. The government has played down the allegations of irregularities in the deal and asked the opposition to produce evidence.
“The responses of Reliance, [Arun] Jaitley and the government at large, cumulatively show that award of offsets to Reliance-Dassault JV is a commission for the services that Ambani provides to Modi,” Bhushan, Sinha and Shourie claimed in a statement.
Under the agreement between India and France, Dassault has to ensure that 50% of the Rs 59,000 crore that India will be paying it for the Rafale aircraft ends up being invested in the Indian defence system. This means that Dassault will have to inject about Rs 30,000 crore into India as part of this deal. A bulk of this Rs 30,000 crore will be channeled through Dassault Reliance Aerospace, a joint venture established between Anil Ambani’s Reliance Aerostructure and Dassault.
The statement added: “The national security has been compromised by the prime minister and every rule of procurement flouted to unilaterally reduce the number of planes from 126 to 36.”
The three also accused Prime Minister Modi of usurping the authority of Services Head Quarters to decide the number of aircraft required, and the authority of the Categorisation Committee to determine what would be the category under which the procurement would proceed.
Bhushan, Sinha and Shourie had made similar allegations in August. They had then claimed that the Rafale defence deal had put national security at risk. They said the deal with France was a “major scandal” and “by far larger than ones that the country has had to contend with in the past”.
On July 20, Congress President Rahul Gandhi had lashed out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Sitharaman in the Lok Sabha, claiming they had not been truthful about the deal with France. He asked the government why the contract was taken away from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and given to a businessman who is under a lot of debt, an apparent reference to Anil Ambani. The government later won a no-confidence vote brought against it by opposition members.