Union defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman, speaking at the News18 Rising India Summit on Saturday, vehemently denied allegations of a 'scam' in the procurement of Rafale fighter jets and hit out at the 'convenience-based' arguments on the issue.
"There is no scam. You can search for as long as you want," Sitharaman said.
The Congress party has repeatedly attacked the NDA government on the pricing of the Rafale deal, raising the alleged scam in numerous press conferences and in Parliament.
Elaborating on the issue, the defence minister said, "During the previous government, (former defence minister) Pranab Mukherjee and AK Antony also declined to give details about certain aspects, pointing to the national interest. At the time, the BJP did not make a big issue of it. As of now, the maturity with which important issues need to be dealt with is not there."
Hitting out at the Congress for harping on the price of the Rafale jets, she said, "What is this constant reference to 'our price' and 'your price?' What difference does it make when you didn't end up buying anything?"
The other significant issue on which the defence minister spoke was last year's 72-day standoff with China at Doka La. She said, "I do not think that there will be a Doka La-2. Engagement is going on at various levels. The permanent representative has held 20 meetings on the issue. Meetings at the level of the border personnel and flag officers have also taken place. We cannot afford to be complacent, and we have to be alert."
Referring to the situation on the Pakistan border, Sitharaman said that while incidents on the border have increased, the armed forces are also pushing them back.
Sitharaman was also quizzed about improvement with respect to the country's defence preparedness. To this, she said, "There is no doubt that there are challenges facing us. Do we have enough ammunition if we have 10 days of power? I am proud to say that Vice Chiefs have been given enough power, including monetary power, and buy whatever they want in times of emergency."
She also stated that the budget provisions given for modernisation for the armed forces are distinct from the budget provisions for salaries or for One Rank One Pension (OROP).
The defence minister also spoke about her view on the budget allocation for the sector, which faced criticism from several quarters for being inadequate. "I'm happy with what I've got. I and my predecessors have repeatedly reviewed the situations."
Sitharaman also spoke on the issue of recruitment of women in the armed forces. The defence minister said, "We are not averse to having women in all activities of the Forces. However, the matter is in various courts across India."
Earlier, addressing the gathering, she had said that India can be one of the hubs of the defence manufacturing sector and the ministry aims to reduce the import of equipment for the armed forces.
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Updated Date: Mar 17, 2018 20:56:26 IST