Rafale deal smells like a scam: Rahul

New Delhi: Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Sunday attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the controversial Rafale deal, alleging he “squirms” when asked about the prices of the fighter aircraft.

Alleging that there was surely a “scam” in the deal with France, Gandhi accused Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman of doing a “flip-flop” on the secrecy clause. He tweeted, “Our Defence Minister said she would, but now she won’t. She flip flops between “it’s-not-a-secret” & “it’s-a-BIG-secret”. The PM squirms when asked about the price of RAFALE and refuses to look me in the eye. Sure smells like a scam. #RAFALEscam”.

Gandhi’s fresh attack on the government came two days after he raised the controversial Rafale deal during No-Confidence Motion debate in Parliament while accusing Sitharaman of lying to the nation quoting the ‘secrecy clause’ in the pact.

Gandhi in his speech in the Lok Sabha on Friday, questioned the Modi government that if “Rafale sold same 48 aircrafts to Egypt and Qatar in 2015 for Rs 1319.80 crore per aircraft then why did India pay Rs 1670.70 crore per Rafale aircraft?”

Reacting to Gandhi’s charges on the deal, Prime Minister Modi in his speech in the Lok Sabha debate said, “Attacking two nations at the same time with some childish allegations, what kind of maturity is this? Rafale issue was discussed. I can’t believe the truth can be crushed like this. Both the nations were forced to issue statements over this childish behaviour. They are screaming without any proof. People have given you a chance to improve. Every soldier would have been wounded by the words of the Opposition.”

France too, meanwhile, has clarified that there was a 2008 security agreement between the two countries in this regard that legally binds the two nations to protect classified information.

In a statement, the spokesperson of the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs in Paris said, “We have noted the statement of Mr Rahul Gandhi before the Indian Parliament. France and India concluded in 2008 a Security agreement, which legally binds the two States to protect the classified information provided by the partner, that could impact security and operational capabilities of the defence equipment of India or France. These provisions naturally apply to the IGA concluded on 23 September 2016 on the acquisition of 36 Rafale aircraft and their weapons. As the President of the French Republic indicated publicly in an interview given to India Today on 9th March 2018, “In India and in France, when a deal is very sensitive, we can’t reveal all details.”

Even after France denied Gandhi’s claim, he remained defiant by tweeting against the Prime Minister Modi government.

During the Lok Sabha debate on Friday, Gandhi said: “Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman earlier said that she will tell the country about the cost. However, later she said it’s a secrecy pact between both the countries (India and France). I asked the French President about this secrecy pact, but he denied the existence of any such pact. He even told me that he has no issues in making the cost public.”

“The Defence Minister has clearly lied under pressure from the PM. Everybody knows the relationship that Prime Minister Modi has with a few business people, and everyone can see the amount of money that goes into his marketing. One of them was given the Rafale contract. Prime Minister Modi has not been truthful and that is a fact,” Rahul added.

Replying to the allegations Sitharaman said that Rahul was misleading the House. She added that a Secrecy Agreement with France was signed in 2008 (under the Congress-led government) and the Rafale deal was also covered in it.
“It is an Agreement, which was signed during the previous Government on 25 January 2008. The Agreement of Secrecy is an umbrella agreement, which was signed by the then honorable Defence Minister, Shri A. K. Antony,” Sitharaman said in her reply to Gandhi’s allegations.

“As per the Article 10 of the inter-Governmental Agreement between Government of India and Government of France on the purchase of Rafale Aircraft, the protection of the classified information and materials exchanged under the IGA shall be governed by the provisions of Security Agreement signed on 25 January 2008,” Sitharaman read the clause.

“That is the agreement I am showing you with the signature of the then honorable Raksha Mantri, Shri A.K. Antony.

It is that which we are following.When a question was asked to the French President, if commercial details about Rafael could be revealed, the French President in that interview to an Indian media house has said this: “You have these commercial agreements and obviously you have competitors, and we can’t let them know the details of the deal.” These are the words of the French President,” the Defence Minister said adding that what he said to Gandhi was immaterial. “There is no record, there is no proof. He has just thrown it at me. It is absolutely wrong,” Sitharaman added.

The NDA government had signed a deal with France based Dassault Aviation to purchase 36 Rafale jets, which is slated to be one of the world’s biggest military procurements in recent history and could cost the Indian government USD 15 billion. (ANI)