Council of Ministers briefed on Rafale deal

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New Delhi : Facing relentless allegations of corruption in the Rafale fighter jet deal, the Modi government is bracing to counter the Opposition onslaught more effectively. On Wednesday, the Union Council of Ministers was briefed about the deal by the National Security Advisor (NSA) besides a top defence official.

A presentation was made to the Council of Ministers giving details of the deal signed by the Modi government with French company Dassault Aviation in April 2016 to procure 36 Rafale fighter jets in fly-away condition. It explaining how the deal was better than the one finalised by the UPA government in 2007, sources said.

The Council of Ministers was told during the two-and-a-half-hour meeting that the allegations levelled by the Opposition about favouring a private entity in giving the offset contract at the cost of state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) were "baseless".

The presentation made by NSA Ajit Doval and Secretary, Defence Production, Ajay Kumar, focused on how the deal signed by the Modi government was "at least 20 per cent" cheaper than the one signed by UPA as it entailed transfer of technology and weaponry.

"The 36 fighter jets will be delivered in a fly-away condition. Not a single equipment is being manufactured in India. So how come this private company has been favoured," Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told reporters in response to a question at the formal Cabinet briefing, though he refused to divulge the details of what transpired in the Council of Ministers' meeting.

"I am not supposed to disclose the details of the Council of Ministers meet here,a Jaitley, who has resumed office last month after a kidney transplant, said.

The purpose of the briefing is understood to equip the Ministers with relevant information about the deal to enable them to counter the opposition's allegations in a more informed and focused way.