Rafale Deal: All you need to know about the controversy
In April 2015, when PM Modi had announced the purchase of 36 "ready-to-fly" Rafale jets, the nation rejoiced, but the incessant attacks by the Congress over the new deal has raised some valid concerns. The Rafale fighter jet deal, which has been at the center of a political row for years, shall now face CAG scrutiny, according to reports. What's the story so far?
What's so special about the Rafale jets?
Rafale, which means a 'sudden gust of wind' in French, is a twin-engine medium multi-role combat aircraft, manufactured by the Dassault Aviation of France. It has 'Omnirole' capability that can simultaneously carry out air-to-air and air-to-ground attacks and also interceptions. It is capable of carrying out a range of missions from reconnaissance to nuclear deterrence and from anti-ship attacks to aerial refueling, among others.
Now, what was the Rafale deal under the UPA?
In 2000, the Vajpayee administration proposed to procure advance jet fighters to modernize the Indian Air Force. In 2012, the hunt for multi-role fighter aircraft ended with the UPA-2 zeroing in on Dassault's Rafale. The deal was inked for 126 jets at $10.4 billion, but the same escalated to $20 billion following multiple delays. Still, the purchase wasn't finalized.
What is the new deal?
It's all allegations and speculations. The exact cost of Rafale jet under UPA or NDA isn't publicly available. In 2015, the NDA cut down the purchase from 126 to 36 fighter jets. TOI reported NDA claiming that its government saved Rs. 12,600 crore on the deal, with the cost of each Rafale declining from 100 million to 90 million euros. But Congress disagrees.
What does the Opposition say?
The Congress has asserted that the per aircraft pricing of Rafale has increased from Rs. 526.1 crore to Rs. 1,570.8 crore under the new deal. They alleged that the Modi government can now only afford to buy 36 fighter jets without the much-needed technology transfer, owing to an unexplained increase in the price. The Defense Minister has denied the claims.
What is Niramala Sitharaman's response?
In February, Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that the Rafale jet deal is "classified information" and cannot be disclosed. But, she has also assured that the NDA has a better deal, and the prices shall soon be made public. She has refuted all allegations of 'scam' alleged by the Congress in the Rafale deal, calling them baseless. End of it, many questions remain unanswered.