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Defence Minister Sitharaman replies to Rafale Debate

The Rafale debate that started in Lok Sabha on Wednesday concluded with the reply of Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday.

In a reply that lasted over 2 hours, the Defence Minister gave a point-by-point rebuttal of all questions raised by the opposition.

She dismissed the Congress campaign on Rafael as one based on lies and accused it of misleading the nation inside and outside Parliament.

The Defence Minister said that the UPA govt could not conclude the deal during a decade in power because it did not intend to buy the fighter jets.

Sitharaman said that the NDA govt accords the highest priority to national security, the reason why the first Rafale fighter jet would be delivered in 2019 and the last of the 36 aircraft in 2022.

On the offset policy, the Minister said that, the NDA govt only followed the policy made by the UPA govt in 2013.

She said that the authority to decide the offset suppliers lies with the manufacturer and there was no intervention in the matter by either the govt of India or France.

On the opposition’s allegation of bypassing of procedures, the Defence Minister said that the deal was examined in 74 meetings.

On pricing of the aircraft, the Defence Minister said that while the Congress kept changing the pricing, the NDA’s deal was more economical than what the UPA was working on.

Nirmala Sitharaman said that it was wrong to compare the price of basic aircraft with that of weaponized aircraft.

The Defence Minister said that the NDA govt increased the number of aircraft to be purchased in flyaway condition from France from 18 to 36, rubbishing the Opposition’s allegation that the NDA govt had reduced the number of aircraft.

Hitting back at Congress for alleging that PSU HAL was ignored for a French company, the Defence Minister accused the Congress of shedding crocodile tears since no contract was signed with HAL during the 10 years of UPA rule. She also asked the Congress why the UPA govt did not give the VVIP chopper contract to HAL and instead chose Agusta Westland for it?

The Defence Minister said that after examining pricing, process and offset details of the deal, the apex court ruled that none of the issues required its intervention.

Earlier, MPs across party lines put forth their party positions on the deal after the debate resumed on Friday.

While the Congress reiterated its demand for a JPC probe, the govt hit back saying those soaked in corruption scandals are leveling graft allegations against it.

The Defence Minister shared details of the Rafale deal with Parliament and appraised it about the importance of procuring Rafale jets for India’s security establishment.

She said disclosing the price of the jets would be a violation of the terms of the agreement and could compromise national security.

Commending the Defence Minister’s reply, BJP President Amit Shah said that Congress’ false campaign on Rafale stands exposed.

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