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‘Did not favour private firm,’ says Nirmala Sitharaman

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman addresses a press conference in New Delhi on September 18, 2018.

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman addresses a press conference in New Delhi on September 18, 2018.   | Photo Credit: AP

The UPA government started negotiating in 2012 with French firm Dassault Aviation to buy 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft. However, a deal could not be sealed.

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday said the allegation that the Narendra Modi government favoured a private firm over the defence public sector undertaking Hindustan Aeronautics Limited was misplaced. The fact was that HAL and Dassault (Rafale fighter jet manufacturers) could not agree on production terms.

“We are repeatedly told that you did not take care of HAL. This is completely misplaced. Dassault and HAL could not go together,” she said at the Indian Women’s Press Corps.

“The rule that Original Equipment Manufacturer can have the deal with a firm from either the public sector or private sector was framed by the UPA. Are they saying this rule is wrong? There were talks with HAL but they did not conclude,” the Minister added. She also rejected the Opposition accusation that Prime Minister Narendra Modi unilaterally negotiated the deal without following due processes.

“The Prime Minister’s visit to France in April 2015 was not to announce the deal, it was just an expression of interest. The actual deal was worked out one and a half years later. In August 2016 the Cabinet Committee on Security approved the deal and it was signed in September that year.”

Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said, “Don't the same offset rules say every offset contract has to be pre-approved by the Defence Minister? So why did you permit HAL to be superseded by a private company that was set up days before the deal?”

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Printable version | Jun 3, 2020 4:03:31 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/union-defence-minister-nirmala-sitharaman-press-conference-in-new-delhi/article24977577.ece

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