Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday accused the Congress of brazenly misleading the nation on the Rafale fighter jet deal, saying Reliance was the partner of Dassault Aviation during the 2012 agreement that was brokered during the UPA regime. Speaking at The Economist India Summit 2018, Sitharaman stressed that it was Dassault that chose its offset partner.

“Reliance was the partner with Dassault during the 2012 MMRCA deal. The deal changed due to their (Ambani’s) family issues. One brother got some sectors and other got some. It is up to Dassault who it wants to choose as a partner in India. Congress fully knows the rules which were framed during their period,” Sitharaman said.

Her remarks come on the backdrop of former French president Francois Hollande’s comments at an interview in September that Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence was chosen as the offset partner by Dassault because the Indian government had “proposed” its name.

The India Summit 2018, whose subject this year was “States of the nation”, witnessed politicians cutting across party lines; business leaders and policymakers speak on the role of individual states in driving the national economy and social agenda.

With a committee last year recommending creating of three integrated theatre commands of the Indian armed forces — northern, western and southern — instead of the 17 in place, Sitharaman said the move would maximise the use of Defence Ministry assets. “We have already applied the integrated command in the security forces in Andaman and Nicobar. We are hoping to move in this direction gradually so that the assets that we have from defence ministry can be better utilised,” she said.

Last month, India and Russia signed a $5.2 billion deal for S-400 Triumf air defence system, a move that could possibly attract US sanctions under Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). Regarding this, Sithraman said India kept its options varied on acquiring resources. “Russia has been an ally of India for over several decades and India has also been procuring equipment from the US from some time as well,” she said.

Speaking at the keynote interview, Union Railways Minister Piyush Goyal said the national transporter would be 100 per cent electrified by 2023. “By 2023, we will have 100% of trains electrified. Our renewable energy expansion program is the most ambitious one including Europe and the United States,” he said. The minister was also of the view that one of the most important reforms taken by the government was doing away with the Railway budget.

With Coal India planning to close 53 underground mines this fiscal, Goyal said the country should invest more in coal and replace older mines with modern plants. “The most counter-productive argument is that India should shut down its coal. India should, in fact, invest more in coal and shut down the older ones and replace them with modern plants as Japan has done,” he said.