The Centre cannot disclose details of the Rafale fighter aircraft deal due to a “Secrecy Agreement” with France, Union Minister of Defence (MoD) Nirmala Sitharaman told the Parliament on Monday(February 5).
Several members had raised questions about the deal, seeking answers from the government. The questions were dismissed with little details forthcoming.
In a written reply to a question from Congress MP MV Rajeev Gowda in Rajya Sabha, Sitharaman said the government cannot share details like the cost per aircraft due to a secrecy pact. “As per ‘Article-10’ of the Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) between Government of India and Government of France on the purchase of Rafale aircraft, the protection of the classified information and material exchanged under IGA is governed by the provisions of the Security Agreement signed between the two nations signed in 2008,” she said.
Reacting to the response, journalist Shekhar Gupta tweeted: “Even as a Rafale deal backer I’m afraid this “secrecy clause” excuse just wouldn’t wash. Govt is digging a hole for itself & for IAF here. Imagine if another govt said this & BJP was in oppn.” His news media organisation ThePrint also carried a report on the issue.
The Rafale deal courted controversy after the Congress raised allegations that it was overpriced, and that Reliance Defence, owned by Anil Ambani, was favoured by the government. The issue was raised by Congress president Rahul Gandhi during the Gujarat election campaign in November-December last year but, apart from a flat denial, there was no other convincing reply from the Modi government.
Reliance Defence has also strongly denied the allegations.
This was also raised in another Parliament question, this one from KTS Tulsi about the basis for making Reliance Defence Limited “a joint venture partner” in the purchase of Rafale aircraft, excluding Government controlled Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.
The government’s reply was provided by Minister of State in MoD Subhash Bhamre. He said the “vendor” can select its own partner: “The current Offsets policy of the Defence Procurement permits the vendors to provide the details of their Indian Offset Partners (IOPs) either at the time of seeking offset credits, or one year prior to discharge of offset obligations. The vendor / OEM is free to select his IOP,” he said.
ThePrint said that Modi government, months before it signed the deal to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets from France in 2016, had rejected another European offer for Eurofighter Typhoon combat aircraft, which was €59 million per unit cheaper than the French planes.
The offer – made at the top level of the Indian government – involved diverting deliveries of Eurofighter Typhoon jets from Britain, Italy and Germany to meet urgent Indian requirements.
The Eurofighter Typhoon had been offered at a total cost of €17.5 billion for 126 fighters, or €138 million per plane. The Rafale deal cost India €7.1 billion for 36 jets, which translates to €197 million per jet, said ThePrint.
Following were the details sought by Rajya Sabha MPs Rajeev Gowda and KTS Tulsi on the Rafale deal and the replies furnished by Sitharaman and her deputy:
On Penalisation of Dassault for nonfulfilment of contractual obligations –
(a) whether Dassault was penalized for refusing to fulfil its contractual obligations under the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft Request for Proposal; if so, the details thereof and if not, the reasons thereof;
(b) the cost per aircraft under the Inter-Governmental Agreement for 36 Rafale aircrafts;
(c) whether offsets contract would apply to additional orders; if so, the details thereof;
(d) whether the cost difference caused by including a private entity under the Offsets clause instead of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited has been estimated; and if so, the details thereof and if not, the reasons thereof?
There was no contract with Dassault for the Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft. As per ‘Article-10’ of the Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) between Government of India and Government of France on the purchase of Rafale aircraft, the protection of the classified information and material exchanged under IGA is governed by the provisions of the Security Agreement signed between the two nations signed in 2008. No additional orders have been catered for in the existing IGA. The quantum of offsets in 36 Rafale IGA is 50% which includes investments in terms of Transfer of Technology (ToT) for manufacture and / or maintenance of eligible products and services. Details of Indian Offset Partners have not yet been provided by the French Industrial suppliers and as per the provisions of Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) – 2013 they need to do so at the time of seeking offset credits or one year prior to discharge of offset obligations through their Indian Offset Partners. As per the provisions of DPP-2013 the Indian offset partner need not be a Public Sector Undertaking.
On private partner in joint venture of Rafale aircraft –
The basis for making Reliance Defence Limited, a private company as a joint venture partner in the purchase of 36 Rafale aircrafts from France, excluding Government controlled Hindustan Aeronautics Limited; and the details thereof?
Response by Minister of state for defence, Subhash Bhamre –
The current Offsets policy of the Defence Procurement permits the vendors to provide the details of their Indian Offset Partners (IOPs) either at the time of seeking offset credits, or one year prior to discharge of offset obligations. The vendor / OEM is free to select his IOP.