Congress criticized the Rs 59,000-crore Rafale fighter jet deal on Saturday while raising several questions on it. Further, the party claimed that the absence of any provision of technology transfer has the ability to cost India "very heavily".
Former Defence Minister A K Antony also demanded that the inter-governmental agreement with France should be made public. He wondered how India would bridge the gap with respect to China and Pakistan by acquiring just 36 aircraft when the original plan was for 126. Addressing a press conference along with party spokesman Manish Tewari at the AICC headquarters, Antony lamented that the idea of 'Make in India' which was there in the original plan has also "gone" in the present deal.
"During UPA, we had planned to buy 126 aircraft to strengthen IAF which was its urgent operational requirement considering security situation in the country," Antony said wondering why only 36 aircrafts were being bought. "Is it enough to meet operational requirement of the IAF which has a sanctioned strength of 42 squadrons and.... at present there are just 32 squadrons?", Antony asked.
A squadron has generally 18 aircrafts. Suggesting that more aircrafts were necessary for the operational requirement of the IAF, he said, otherwise, by 2022 the squadron available with IAF would be reduced to 25. "I don't want to comment on the present price before I know the exact details. Government must publish the details of the final contract," Antony said "Today we read inspired pieces in some media, which claim the present Government has saved money by hard negotiations. That's not true!", he said adding, "You can't compare the Rafale deal price during UPA Government's time and now."
India yesterday inked a Euro 7.87 billion (approx Rs 59,000) deal with France for purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets capable of carrying nuclear weapons and equipped with latest missiles that will give the IAF greater "potency" over arch rival Pakistan.