Rafale jets, we have all heard about it in our media and in our political scenario for over few years now. But what’s the controversy surrounding this, for India acquiring this super jets. Lets know about this the history and controversy surround the multicrore Rafale Deal.

On 31 January 2012, the Indian Ministry of Defence announced that Dassault Rafale had won the MMRCA competition to supply the Indian Air Force with 126 aircraft, along with an option for 63 additional aircraft. The first 18 aircraft were to be supplied by Dassault Aviation fully built and the remaining 108 aircraft were to be manufactured under license by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) with a transfer of technology from Dassault.

The negotiations with Dassault dragged on due to disagreements on warranty for aircraft produced by HAL. In January 2014, it was reported that the cost of the deal had escalated to $30 billion (₹1,86,000 crore), with each aircraft costing $120 million (₹746 crore).In February 2014, defence minister A. K. Antony said that the procedure of calculation of life-cycle cost was being re-examined and the contract could not be signed due to budgetary constraints.

After the Indian general election in April–May 2014, the N D A led Bharatiya Janata Party took control of the government with Prime Minster as Narendra Modi. During an official visit to France in April 2015, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi announced that India would acquire 36 fully built Rafales citing “critical operational necessity”. In July 2015, defence minister Manohar Parrikar informed the Rajya Sabha that the tender for 126 aircraft had been withdrawn and negotiations for 36 aircraft had begun. In January 2016, India and France signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for acquisition of 36 aircraft without finalising the financial terms of the acquisition.

This is what kickstarted all the political controversy surrounding the Rafale Deal in India related to the purchase of 36 multirole fighter aircraft for a price estimated at €7.8 billion by the Defence Ministry of India from France’s Dassault Aviation.

The day after the signing of IGA between France and India, Indian National Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari asked for details of the agreement to be made public and questioned if there was an escalation of per-aircraft cost from ₹715 crore to ₹1,600 crore and so on. Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa denied all the allegations. French government officials also rejected the allegations of violation of procurement procedures.

In 2017, Congress leader Randeep Surjewala alleged that HAL was bypassed in the Rafale contract and questioned the presence of Anil Ambani in France . He also alleged that the necessary government approvals were not obtained before the formation of joint venture between Dassault Aviation and Reliance Defence Limited. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi accused PM Narendra Modi of dropping the requirement of licensed manufacture by the state-owned HAL to ensure that the privately owned Reliance Defence Limited obtained an offset contract from Dassault.

Rahul Gandhi continued his attacks on PM Narendra Modi and the BJP Government, in all his election campaigns with popular slogans ” Rafale mei chori hui hai” “Chowkidar Chor hai”. The matter didn’t end there and went on to Supreme Court.

On 14 December 2018, the court dismissed all the petitions seeking a probe into the alleged irregularities in the deal, and gave a clean chit to the Union government on all the three aspects, the decision making, pricing, and selection of Indian offset partner. In its ruling, the court said it has “studied the material carefully” and is satisfied with the decision-making process, and that it found no evidence of wrongdoing.

Amid all the controversy and allegations on July 2020, India welcomed its first batch of “Rafale Jets” the highly combat technologically driven aircrafts ready to tackle in any enemy in War Zone. Indeed acquring the Rafale Jets a big deal as India never had such highly combat aircraft loaded with high supersonic missiles, as India having diplomatic issues with its bordering nations.

Visual by: Aslam Siddique

Article by Niladri Sekhar Dutta, The North-Eastern Chronicle

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