Sitharaman rejects AK Antony’s charge of overlooking HAL in Rafale deal


India’s defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman Tuesday rejected the allegations by her predecessor AK Antony that NDA government overlooked public sector company Hindustan Aeronautics Limited in favour of Anil Ambani’s firm in the deal to acquire 36 Rafale fighters from France.

Sitharaman said that public sector aircraft manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautics Limited was excluded from the Rafale deal by the United Progressive Alliance government itself.

Addressing a press conference, Nirmala Sitharaman asserted, “This entire issue of HAL not being chosen happened during their (UPA) time. Every question you have should go to them.”

Nirmala Sitharaman said: “Dassault and HAL could not agree on production terms. As a result, HAL and Rafale could not go together. Doesn’t that say it clearly? Isn’t it obvious that interests of HAL could’ve been taken care of even during that time?”

Defence Minister Sitharaman accused previous UPA government for not taking care of the interests of either HAL or IAF.

“They (UPA government) should’ve made sure that HAL’s offer was appealing enough for Dassault,” she said while replying to the questions on her predecessor’s statement AK Antony who had accused his successor of suppressing the facts.

Earlier in the day, Former Defence Minister AK Antony had accused Nirmala Sitharaman Tuesday morning of suppressing the facts and tarnishing the image of public sector aircraft manufacturuer HAL in India and abroad.

During AK Antony’s tenure the request for proposal was issued for 126 medium multirole combat aircraft and trials were conducted but India did not clear the purchase.

In his press conference today morning, former defence minister AK Antony also blamed the NDA government for ‘gravely compromising’ national security in the Rafale fighter jet deal.

“The Modi government is guilty of compromising national security. They have been repeatedly saying that the new Rafale deal is cheaper. If that was the case, why is the government buying only 36 aircraft?” Antony asked about NDA government’s decision to acquire only 36 aircraft.

Former Defence Minister AK Antony. (File Photo).

NDA government has often said that the deal to acquire 36 fighter jets from France in flyaway condition was to meet the ‘urgent operational needs’ of Indian Air Force.

India has this year issued requirement for 110 more fighter aircraft under joint production and technology transfer category to meet the requirements of Indian Air Force.

Responding to the allegations leveled by her predecessor, Nirmala Sitharaman said that the NDA government was getting the Rafale fighter jets at a price that is nine per cent less than what the UPA dispensation had agreed upon.

“We have responded saying your basic price and the basic price that I am getting at when compared with all the escalation and other things, is 9 per cent cheaper,” she said.

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