The former Defence Minister, A.K. Antony, on Saturday raised several questions over the Rafale fighter jet deal, wondering whether the Finance Ministry and the Defence Acquisition Council were taken on board while clinching the agreement with France.
He also said that several opposition leaders and BJP brass like Yashwant Sinha and Jaswant Singh had opposed the purchase of the French fighter jets during the UPA regime, finding fault on different counts.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his visit to France last month, had signed an agreement to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets in fly-away condition for over $ 6 billion.
Mr. Antony said the Finance Ministry had not supported the Rafale deal when he was Defence Minister as a new concept of L-1 was introduced to arrive at the best aircraft available based on the life cycle cost of the machine.
Stung by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s reported remarks that he “killed” the deal by making several notings on the file, Mr. Antony insisted that he had taken the “correct” decision against the backdrop of the IAF’s plea for early acquisition of fighter jet.
Mr. Antony said he had told all concerned to continue with the negotiations, but not to take it with the government for approval until the L-1 dispute was settled.
During his tenure as Defence Minister, Mr. Antony said what was being sought to be achieved was acquisition of 18 aircraft in fly-away condition and 108 to be manufactured along with technology transfer agreement with Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.
The company was not ready to transfer technology as part of the agreement.
Mr. Antony insisted that neither the Prime Minister, nor the Defence Minister or the Armed Forces could procure any equipment bypassing the Defence Acquisition Council.
The Congress leader sought to know what was the decision on technology transfer arrived at by the Modi government which had been emphasising much on ‘Make in India’
Defence preparedness At the AICC briefing, the senior Congress leader tore into government claims on defence preparedness accusing it of committing the “anti-national act” of compromising the nation’s security by downsizing the Mountain Strike Corps on the Chinese border despite Beijing enjoying 3/1 superiority over New Delhi.
“A weak man cannot safeguard national interests. We don’t want war, but should be in a position to protect our country,” he said, appealing to the government to reconsider the decision.