Denying the Congress' allegations of graft over the Rs 58,000-crore deal with France to procure 36 Rafale fighter jets, the Minister of Defence on Wednesday called the demand to disclose the details and value of the contract "unrealistic".
"Unfounded allegations are being made regarding the 2016 Inter-Governmental Agreement to procure 36 Rafale aircraft in fly-away condition from France," the ministry said in a statement issued on Wednesday.
The ministry added that the allegations merited a response because of the "serious damage" they were causing. "It ought to be remembered that it was under the ten-year tenure of the previous government at the Centre that the earlier initiative of 2002 to meet requirement of the Indian Air Force for much needed augmentation of its fighter strength ran aground," it said.
Stressing that it could not reveal details of the deal, the defence ministry said the procurement of the aircraft "is strictly in accordance with the Defence Procurement Procedure in all aspects."
Giving an item-wise cost and other information would reveal details about weapons systems and customisation of the jet, it said, adding that the government was bound by the confidentiality provisions of a 2008 Indo-France pact in not sharing details of the deal.
It further mentioned that the UPA government had also expressed its inability to disclose the price of various defence procurements.
The inter-government agreement for buying the Rafale fighters was signed between the two nations on 23 September, 2016, after being agreed upon during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to France in April 2015.
The defence ministry insisted that the deal secured by the government was better in terms of capability, price, equipment and delivery than the one "notionally" negotiated by the UPA regime in a process which it could not conclude even in 10 years.
Clarifying on the initial proposal to procure Rafale which had ended "in a stalemate", the ministry said there was "no provision for transfer of technology but only to manufacture under licence."
"The government was unable to agree on the terms for even that in its negotiations with the vendor, resulting in the long-drawn exercise under the earlier government ultimately turning futile," it said.
The defence ministry's statement comes a day after Congress president Rahul Gandhi questioned Centre's "secrecy" on the deal. Rahul tweeted:
Top Secret (Not for Distribution) RM says the price negotiated for each RAFALE jet by the PM and his "reliable" buddy is a state secret. Action Points 1.Informing Parliament about the price is a national security threat 2.Brand all who ask, Anti National#TheGreatRafaleMystery — Office of RG (@OfficeOfRG) February 6, 2018
Rahul's tweet followed Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman causing an uproar in the Rajya Sabha when she refused to divulge details of the deal by citing a "secrecy clause" in the agreement.
Updated Date: Feb 07, 2018 20:46 PM