by Brig Arun Bajpai

For several weeks, there is a slug fest going on between Congress party led by Rahul Gandhi who wants to corner the ruling Modi Government of the BJP at the centre on Rafael fighter aircraft deal, calling it a scam keeping in mind the 2019 general elections, and ruling BJP, who is giving counter arguments that it is not a scam. However, neither Congress nor BJP has come out with any proof that it is a scam or vice versa. Only the atmosphere is being vitiated that it is a scam. This is not good for any democracy more so if we call India a democracy and not mobocracy. It is really bad for the defence preparedness of the country also, for which this congress party appears to be least bothered.

Basically Rahul Gandhi, the president of Congress party has come out with two accusations. First. that while in their time they were buying this fighter aircraft Rafael at the cost of 560 corer per fighter but the Modi Government had bought this aircraft in 2016 at three times this price. Second. This fighter aircraft was to be made in public sector plant HAL during Congress time as an offset partner of French company Dassault but in 2016 Modi Government changed it to Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence, a private sector undertaking with 50% off set as against UPAs 30% off set. However in both the cases no wrong doing stands proven. Modi Government says that Indian Air Force had requested the UPA Government led by Congress, way back in 2002, that they need 126 new fighter aircraft to cater for their fast depleting fighter aircraft must be remembered that to cater for the two front requirement of China and Pakistan, IAF is authorised 45 squadrons of 18 fighters each. Today in absence of fighter aircraft, its strength is down to just 32 fighter squadrons in that also 7-8 squadrons of MIG series of aircraft are retiring in next 2-3 years. In other words it is in dire need of induction of more fighter squadrons. But reasons best known to Congress and its longest serving defence minster saint Antony, he did nothing for seven long years meanwhile IAF continued losing squadrons. why should this congress and its defence minster Antony not be made accountable for this neglect of Indian Defence needs ? now they are not in power but they have set the clock back for IAF by almost a decade ,why ?

Prime Minister Modi went on an official visit to France in 2016 and in order to cater for the immediate need of IAF, cancelled the previous deal, which in any case had not reached any conclusion in last decade or so, and made a separate Government to Government deal with France in which India will get 36 Rafael fighters from France in fly away condition. India is required to spend 59000 corer in this deal in which French Company Dassault will have to off set 50% to an Indian company selected. In earlier deal which was scrapped, India was to get 18 Rafael in flyaway condition and rest to be made in India at HAL. One of the reason why this deal was not making any headway was because IAF insisted that Dassault give a guarantee to them on the performance of the aircraft. This Dassault was not prepared to give because they were fully aware of the poor quality control in HAL.

Mr Rahul Gandhi’s claim that Modi Government forced the name of Anil Ambanis defence company instead of HAL on Dassault, does not hold any water. First and foremost, it is a government to Government deal which goes against the grain of any scam. besides it is not mandatory on Dassault to agree on what India or any functionary of Modi government is suggesting. They carry out their own market survey. We should not forget that this is the same Ambani defence company which has last year bagged biggest (3 billion Dollars) contract to service 100 battle ships of US Seventh Fleet located in Indian Ocean for three years. Surely Ambanis would not have bribed Americans also. Even if hypothetically we agree that Modi government did suggest the name of Ambani Defence, so what is wrong with it ? It will be only wrong if some money had exchange hands. Then congress and Rahul Gandhi must come out with some proof .However all that this Janeu Dhari has done till date is, poodle faking, no proof. First congress goes to CAG with their case. Even before CAG is able to decide any thing, Congress says Modi Government is influencing CAG so now they have gone to CVC. What is this happening.? If the Congress really had some case or proofs they would have gone to courts and not to CAG or CVC. It simply means that they are doing this irresponsible drama to get some cheap popularity, not bothered that this will spoil Indian relations with the way the Ex president of France Mr Hollande has also jumped in the fray saying that it was Modi Government who had suggested the name of Ambani defence ,whom Dassault simply included. Mr Hollande we Indians are not fools as not to know that nobody, not even your Dassault OEM, just includes a offset firm without carrying out their own assessment? Mr Hollande you must also tell us that your girl friend who wanted to produce a movie, it was Mr Ambani who financed it and now you are back tracking to be on the cleaner side.

All said and done, this entire Rafael episode is a drama being enacted by Congress to some how malign the Modi Government. they are not only undermining India’s defence but are also spoiling our relations with France. this is a very sad commentary on Congress leadership. As for BJP, instead of just countering Congress point by point, they must come out with all guns firing. If necessary take permission from France and place all files in public domain.

Brig Arun Bajpai (Retd) is a distinguished Defence and Strategic Analyst. Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of IDN. IDN does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same