Friday, 17 November 2017

Defence minister issues 5-point rebuttal of Rafale accusations


By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 17th Nov 17

Underlining the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) unease at Congress Party allegations of wrongdoing by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government in the Rs 58,000 crore purchase last year of 36 Rafale fighters from French company, Dassault, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman led a counterattack on Friday.

Flanked by Defence Secretary Sanjay Mitra and Indian Air Force (IAF) procurement chief, Air Vice Marshal Rathunath Nambiar, Sitharaman lashed out at the Congress on five counts.

First, she stated, the previous BJP government had, as early as 2000, “recognised the need to strengthen the IAF”, leading to procurement being initiated for 126 medium multirole combat aircraft (MMRCA). Yet, the Congress Party was unable to conclude the purchase of Rafale fighters “for an entire decade between 2004-2014”, she said.

That “act of omission” had led to severe fighter shortages in the IAF, Sitharaman charged. “This was the grim situation when this government came to power in 2014”, she said.

In fact, the MMRCA procurement was initiated only in 2007, with the issue of a Request for Proposals (RfP or tender). Over the next four years, the IAF evaluated six contending fighters --- Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet: Lockheed Martin’s F-16IN Super Viper; RAC MiG’s MiG-35; Saab’s Gripen C, the Eurofighter Typhoon and the Rafale --- in what was hailed worldwide as “the world’s most professionally run fighter competition.”

In April 2011, the IAF ruled out four fighters, leaving only the Eurofighter Typhoon and Dassault Rafale in the fray. In January 2012, the Rafale was identified as the winner of the contest and negotiations began with Dassault over the cost. Therefore, the UPA can, at worst, be accused of two years and three months of vacillation, until the BJP came to power in May 2014.

Sitharaman’s second rebuttal related to the Congress accusation that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had not followed due procedure, and not even consulted his defence minister before announcing during a state visit to France in April 2015 that India would buy 36 Rafale fighters in fly-away condition.

“When the prime minister went to Paris in 2015 and agreed [on the purchase of 36 Rafales], he followed the due process of getting it cleared through the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS)”, said Sitharaman. “In September 2016, almost a year and a half later, the Inter-Governmental Agreement for buying 36 Rafales was signed in the presence of the defence ministers of France and India”, she said.

While it is true the CCS cleared the Rafale purchase after Modi returned from Paris, no CCS permission, or from any defence ministry procurement body, was obtained before Modi and French President Francois Hollande announced the Rafale buy in April 2015.

Thirdly, Sitharaman countered the Congress’ accusation that the NDA government had obtained the Rafale without transfer of technology, whilst the MMRCA contract the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government was negotiating involved full transfer of technology (ToT) for building the Rafale in India.

“This is simple economics. When we are talking about building 126 aircraft [in India], ToT makes economic sense. But when you are buying 36 aircraft across-the-counter… it makes no economic sense for ToT to be added on”, she correctly stated.

Fourthly, Sitharaman rejected the Congress’ oblique allegation that Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence Ltd (RDL) had benefited from his proximity to the PM to be unfairly picked as Dassault’s Indian partner for discharging the 50 per cent offset clause that came with the Rafale deal.

“If two private firms come together, that doesn’t require government’s permission”, said Sitharaman. She argued the PM does not control the composition of his business delegation and it does not matter if it includes “a certain individual”.

Finally, Sitharaman argued that “The price we have obtained [the Rafale for] is far less [than the UPA]”.

However, she was unable to address media queries about how must the government was paying for 36 Rafales, compared to what the UPA government had negotiated.

“We will give you the figures that you want”, said Sitharaman, directing the query to the defence secretary. However, he did not have the figures either.

In April 2015, the announcement in Paris by Modi and Hollande of their agreement over the Rafale took the defence ministry by surprise. This was evident from a series of uncoordinated statements from then defence minister, Manohar Parrikar, who was left fielding questions in India.

The morning after the announcement, Parrikar erroneously told PTI in Goa that the 36 fighters would join IAF service within two years. Apparently distancing himself from the Rafale deal, Parrikar termed it “a great decision taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on better terms and conditions.”

Nor was Parrikar aware of how many Rafales would be bought. He told Doordarshan: “It may be worked out that we will buy another 90 Rafales… The ‘Make in India’ part will be decided only after government-to-government talks.”

With the Congress pressing home its attack over "insurmountable loss" of taxpayers' money, the BJP is marshalling its counter. On Thursday, IAF boss, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa stated the NDA had pulled off “a cheaper deal”  than what the UPA was contemplating.

In fact, between 2013-14, UPA defence minister, AK Antony, had repeatedly made clear his deep reservations over the Rafale procurement, telling close associates that he was never going to sign it.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

'In fact, between 2013-14, UPA defence minister, AK Antony, had repeatedly made clear his deep reservations over the Rafale procurement, telling close associates that he was never going to sign it.' Were you among the close associates?

GASC said...

Dear Ajay Shukla, Can you please point out to the EXACT differences between Original UPA Deal and Modi's Deal?

BJP supporters say we are getting a lot more in new deal, like missiles, HMDS, Radars and what not. Do you have a list of Exact hardware, Technology and Services (like maintenance etc) we were going to get in Both deals? Along with respective cost of each Item? That would enable us to compare both the deals.
It's becoming clear with every day that Rafale Deal is a crony-capitalistic Scam, but it would be better to have all the numbers so that Propaganda can be fought better.

VASANTH BHANDARKAR said...

Since 2011 when the Rafale deal was about to be announced we had pointed out the mind-boggling number of mistakes in the specifications quoted in RFP (all prehistoric MiL Stds were being quoted) and the huge difference in current technologies. It was evident that Dassault was going to take us for a royal ride. Both Antony and Parrikar would have avoided signing this deal. Now Nirmala has been made a scapegoat to fight out a deal which is clealrly meant to help you know whom Industrialist.

VIKRAM PRASAD said...

What is it that sukhoi cant do. Cost benefit analysis must be done wrt rafale.

F35 also becomes a stealth option.China will definitely provide them to pakistan in five years

ashok said...

UNLESS THE BJP EXPLAINS THE DIFFERNCE IN DETAIL OF THE PRICE OF TWO DEALS AND ENHANCEMENTS OVER THE 126 RAFALE PURCHASE IT WILL BE AN ALBATROSS ROUND ITS NECK LIKE THE BOFFERS LED TO CONGRESS AND RAJIV GANDHIS DOWNFALL. FOR ITS OWN GOOD OIT MUST COME OUT CLEAN AND EXPLAIN THE INCREASE FROM 714 CRORES TO 1616 CRORES PER AIRCRAFT .

Anonymous said...

PAID TOO MUCH FOR RAFALE, CORRUPT BJP

Anonymous said...

I guess everyone left out the inflation part. Moreover , when maintenance for five years and performance-based logistics costs are added , there is cost escalation similar to the C-17 fleet we have in our service. I guess the author have selective amnesia.

Anonymous said...

I guess everyone left out the inflation part. Moreover , when maintenance for five years and performance-based logistics costs are added , there is cost escalation similar to the C-17 fleet we have in our service.

Alok Asthana said...

The real game lies here ------ 'However, she was unable to address media queries about how much the government was paying for 36 Rafales, compared to what the UPA government had negotiated.“We will give you the figures that you want”, said Sitharaman, directing the query to the defence secretary. However, he did not have the figures either'.------ Rest is all smoke and mirrors.

Durlov Baruah said...

The 'accessories' don't matter when you are building over 100 Rafalles in India with complete transfer of technology. Radar etc. could have been purchased or built later. Modi killed his own Make In India by trying to pay back Anil Ambani so that he can demand more funds for coming elections.

Indian said...

Both AK Antony and Parrikar are better interns of geniunity than Nirmala. Parrikar is technically sound person and took some indigenous initiatives like Tejas A1. Honestly it is open secret that BJP and Modi Government backing some industrialist and we all know who is going to benefit from this rafale and ongoing Warship deal with Russia

Sohom Dev said...

No one gives TOT

ashok said...

ISIT PRICE ESCALATION , INDIAN ADDITIONAL REQUIREMENTS , UPGRADED WEAPONS TRAINING AND SIMULATORS ,NEW NUCLEAR HARDENED BASES SPARES ASSURANCE AND FLEET READINESS OF 75% , BOTH DEALS MUST BE EXPLAINED IN A TABULTED FORM . MADAM BEING A PRICE WATERHOUSE MEMBER WILL KNOW THE DETAILS PUT THEM IN PUBLIC AND COME CLEAN OR THE CONGRESS WILL MAKE THE PEOPLE AND MASSES BELIEVE FOR VOTE BANK POLITICS 15000 TO 20000 CRORES HAVE BEEN SKIMMED .THE TIME TO WALK THE TALK IS NOW .

Anonymous said...

Does it make sense strategically, to buy 36 fighters? I mean from logistics and maintenance it doesn't. But maybe it is that few excellent fighters to fill the gap? Your view sir?

VIKRAM PRASAD said...

With the brahmos the sokhoi becomes a potent defensive option


Will we ignore their proven capabilty for expensive options from the west

DJ100 said...

Rafael deals for Egypt and offer for Brazil were similar in terms and support packages to Indian deal with Dassault. Please feel free to google. Brazil was offered $8.3 billion for 24 Rafales. Folha de Sao Paolo reports that it was the most expensive of the 3 finalists, with a price tag of about $8.2 billion US dollars (13.3 billion Reals), plus $4 billion in maintenance contracts over the next 30 years. In February 2015, France agreed to deliver 24 Rafale fighter jets to Egypt at a cost of € 5.2 billion.
Now, how could same Dassault offer India 126 Rafales with all the weapons, support and ToT for $20 billion?! It couldn't and it was not planning on it. That was simply a ruse to suck India in and eliminate any competition.
So, let's not even compare these two deals. The first one was no go and hence not signed for long time. The second one is what was realistic and signed by India under Modi.

To people who hate private sector getting any share of government spending: that's how Dassault (a private company) is leader in aerospace. Add to that list Boeing, Lockheed, Colt, General Atomics, GDS, UT.....