NEW DELHI: Revealing details of pricing of Rafale fighters and their weaponry is against India’s strategic and commercial interests and should not become a precedent as it will deter sale of high-grade weapons to India, the government is understood to have told the Supreme Court.

While it did, after considerable reluctance, accede to the court’s demand that pricing details be submitted for scrutiny, the government made the point that it is doing so only in deference to the SC’s wishes and expected the national security implications to be kept in mind.

The call to provide pricing details under sealed cover to the SC was political, taken by the senior leadership of the government and BJP as it was felt that doing so will help counter the opposition charge that the Centre is hiding crucial facts and that the deal for Rafale fighters is not transparent.

The Centre’s arguments emphasised that the submission on pricing was made in keeping with the SC’s views but also in anticipation of the court understanding the need for secrecy regarding the fighter’s systems, weapons and fitments. The government’s decision should be regarded as only a ‘one-off’ instance.

The government has stated the basic price of the aircraft in Parliament but has not provided item-wise detail, pointing to a secrecy clause in the inter-governmental agreement governing India’s purchase of 36 Rafale fighters in flyaway condition. Government sources have said terms negotiated by the government, along with the escalation clause, make both basic and fully loaded fighters less expensive as compared to the negotiations conducted by UPA that were not concluded.

Government sources said the decision to reveal the pricing details to the SC was not an easy one as it can directly impact the trustworthiness of the Indian government’s commitments to foreign governments and suppliers. There was considerable discussions on the fallout of the move in terms of the precedent that it could set, as government will need to explain its decision to current and future suppliers.

The commercial secrets of weapon suppliers such as Dassault Aviation are closely guarded and the possibility, even if remote, of the details being committed on paper in a court submission being leaked are considered worrisome.

It was the need for political action that clinched the arguments as invocation of the secrecy clause was seen to be providing ammunition to Congress and other opposition parties to attack the government for alleged corruption in the purchase of Rafale aircraft and alleged side-lining of public sector Hindustan Aeronautics Limited for industrialist Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence.

In its submissions to the court, the government has explained that previous discussions between Dassault and HAL failed despite efforts to reach an understanding over costs for licensed manufacture and maintenance.