Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Friday raised the controversial Rafale deal in Parliament while accusing Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman of lying to the nation quoting the 'secrecy clause' in the pact.
"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," Gandhi said in the Lok Sabha during the debate on the No-Confidence Motion.
"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.
As Gandhi attacked Modi government over the Rafale deal, the Treasury benches shouted "Augusta" hinting towards the 2013 Indian helicopter bribery scandal when Congress-led UPA government was ruling the Centre.
During his speech, the Congress president also questioned 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?"
Replying to the allegations Sitharaman said the Gandhi 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 Rahul’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 Rahu 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.
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