Rafale deal controversy: Why Congress calls it a huge scam

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Representational Image
Representational Image

New Delhi : In September 2016, India signed a deal with the French government to purchase 36 new Rafale fighter jets in a 7.87 billion euro deal. Accordingly, India will also get newest weapons like the Meteor and Scalp missiles as a part of the deal. And, India will pay a 15% advance and deliveries are to start in three years.

The Rafale deal was initially estimated to be worth Rs 54,000 crore. The NDA goverment has maintained that it got significantly better terms than those quoted in the original bid under UPA, with a total reported saving of more than 1600 million Euros. However, cost breakup of Rafale in the original bid under UPA and in the 36 aircraft in the deal under NDA are not in the public domain.

Previously, there was no agreement on the terms of Technology Transfer and the offer was just on Licence Manufacturing technology. Under the current agreement, the 36 Rafale procurement offset proposal supports the 'Make In India' initiative of the Indian Government through Article 12 of the IGA. It states that the French Party will facilitate the implementation of 'Make In India' by the industrial supplier remarkably through offsets for 50% value of the supply protocol.

Meanwhile, in November 2017, the Congress began to blame that the deal was a huge scam. Saying that the contract violated the procurement procedure, the Congress party accused that the government is promoting 'crony capitalist friends’ at the cost of a defence public sector unit, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited

Congress alleged that the deal signed with France does not cater for technology transfer and has caused an 'insurmountable' loss to the exchequer. The Rafale deal has a 50 percent counteract clause, a large part of which is to be executed by a joint venture company of the Anil Ambani owned Reliance Defence.

What is a Rafale Jet and why India needs it

Rafale is a twin-engine medium multi-role combat aircraft, manufactured by French company Dassault Aviation. The manufacturer claims that Rafale has 'Omnirole' capability to perform several actions at the same time, such as firing air-to-air missiles at a very low altitude, air-to-ground, and interceptions during the same foray. The aircraft is fitted with an on-board oxygen generation system (OBOGS) which suppresses the need for liquid oxygen re-filling or ground support for oxygen production.

It carries out a wide range of missions: Air-defence/air-superiority, Reconnaissance, close air support dynamic targeting, Air-to-ground precision strike/interdiction, anti-ship attacks, nuclear deterrence, buddy-buddy refuelling.

When India decided to revamp its IAF fleet by introducing Multi-Role Combat Aircrafts, many international aviation manufactures approached the government of the country. Later in 2011, IAF declared that Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon can meet their requirement. Rafale was declared L-1 bidder in 2012 and thus, contract negotiations began with its manufacturer, Dassault Aviation. Contract negotiations were left incomplete even after 2 years due to a lack of agreement on various terms of RFP compliance and cost-related issues. No deal was made under the UPA Government.

Later in April 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced that India will buy 36 French-manufactured Rafale fighter jets off-the-shelf from Dassault, the French aircraft builder and integrator. The Modi-led BJP government, however, moved back from the commitment of the last UPA government to buy 126 Rafales, saying the twin-engined planes would be too expensive. There were lots of discussions over costs of the aircraft. But, the Prime Minister felt the urgent need to upgrade the Indian Air Force and decided to buy 36 "ready-to-fly" fighters instead of trying to acquire technology from Dassault and make it in India.

Soon after the deal was announced, the Congress accused the ruling government of non-transparency in the multi-billion dollar deal and called it "one of the biggest failures" of the 'Make-in-India' programme.

In January 2016, India confirmed order of 36 Rafale jets in defence deal with France and under this deal, Dassault and its main partners - engine-maker Safran and electronic systems-maker Thales - will share some technology with DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation) and some private sector companies and HAL under the offsets clause. 

As of now, the delivery of the Rafale jets is scheduled to begin from September, 2019.