Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram addressing a press conference in New Delhi on Friday. Photo/ANI
Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram addressing a press conference in New Delhi on Friday. Photo/ANI

Modi govt gave 'windfall' to Dassault Aviation by paying more per aircraft: P Chidambaram

ANI | Updated: Jan 18, 2019 22:22 IST

New Delhi [India] Jan 18 (ANI): The Modi-led government has compromised national security by denying to the Air Force the 7 squadrons (126 aircraft) that it desperately needed and gave a "windfall" to Dassault Aviation by paying more per aircraft, said Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram on Friday.
Addressing a press conference here, Chidambaram fired a fresh salvo at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and said: "Rafale deal is a windfall for Dassault. That is the gift that the NDA government has given to Dassault and that is why I said that Dassault is laughing all the way to the bank....The windfall to Dassault was a deliberate decision of NDA government, which is highly questionable."
"If the government had hoped that it had succeeded in giving a quiet burial to the Rafale aircraft deal controversy, it was wrong. We had said so immediately after the judgment of the Supreme Court. The controversy is very much alive and, this morning, it acquired a new dimension," he added.
The Congress leader further said that ever since April 10, 2015, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in Paris that the earlier UPA-negotiated deal for 126 aircraft was scrapped and he had agreed on a new deal to buy 36 aircraft, one question has loomed large.
"Why did the government reject the Air Force's need and demand for 126 fighter aircraft (7 squadrons) and decide to buy only 36 aircraft (2 squadrons)?" he asked, adding that this question has never been answered by the Prime Minister or the Defence Minister or the Finance Minister or the Law Minister. Be it noted that the Supreme Court expressly declined to go into that question.
This comes after media report came out stating that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's decision to buy 36 aircraft instead of the 126 asked for by the Indian Air Force pushed the price of each jet up by 41.42 per cent.
Citing the report of THE HINDU, Chidambaram asserted that the answer to the question is now available through the splendid investigative report published by THE HINDU on Friday. "The report has been published in public interest," he added.
"The Hindu's story raises many other serious issues about the process of decision-making in the NDA government. The man who got away was Manohar Parrikar who passed the buck to the Cabinet Committee on Security! Clever man! However, it is necessary to compliment the three officers of the Indian Negotiating Team who stood up to pressure and forced a vote of 4-3 on every issue," Chidambaram stated.
"I have done this analysis in the time I had. I need a little more time. I think the procedure was rushed through. I never heard of decisions taken based on a 4:3 vote," Chidambaram said.
On the other hand, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman stressed that THE HINDU report has several inaccurate facts which are devoid of any new arguments.
"All issues have been answered in detail by the Defence Minister in an open debate in parliament," Sitharaman said in a tweet on Friday.
Continuing with his tirade against NDA government, he asserted: "The government did not buy the 90 more aircraft needed by the Air Force and paid Rs 186 crore more to French firm Dassault, maker of Rafale, for 13 India-specific enhancements in the medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA)."
The price negotiated by the UPA government in 2007 was Euro 79.3 million per bare-bones aircraft. In 2011, that price had escalated to Euro 100.85 million per aircraft. In 2016, the 'discount' of 9 per cent negotiated by the NDA government brought down the price (presumably after factoring in the escalation between 2011 and 2016) to Euro 91.75 million, Chidambaram said while comparing the price of both NDA and UPA government in Rafale deal signing.
Elaborating about the two ways that benefitted Dassault, he said, first, the price per aircraft, because of India Specific Enhancements (ISE), would have increased by Euro 10.3 million if 126 aircraft had been ordered. Under the new agreement for only 36 aircraft, the price per aircraft, because of ISE, will increase by Euro 36.11 million. Second, calculating the net present value of money, Euro 1300 million that Dassault will recover by 2022, which will be much higher than the Euro 1300 million it would have recovered by 2029 or so. This is the gift to Dassault that the NDA government gave between April 2015 and August 2016.
"It seems to me that Dassault is laughing all the way to the bank. The government has wronged the country in two ways: firstly, it has compromised national security by denying to the Air Force 90 fighter aircraft that they desperately need; secondly, it has purchased two squadrons that will cost about Euro 25 million more per aircraft. At the 2016 exchange rate, Euro 25 million is equal to Rs 186 crore! India will pay Rs 186 crore more per aircraft," he remarked.
The Congress leader again put forward his party's demand and said that there is no doubt any longer that the Rafale aircraft deal deserves to be examined thoroughly by a Joint Parliamentary Committee. (ANI)