New Delhi: In yet another clarification on the controversial Rafale deal, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday said that the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Dassault couldn’t agree on production terms during the era of UPA government. As a result, HAL and Rafale couldn’t go together and this clearly showed that the Congress-led- UPA government did not back HAL in 2013.
“The deal didn’t happen during UPA. What also didn’t happen during the UPA was that between HAL and Dassault, they couldn’t agree on production terms. So HAL and Rafale couldn’t go together. Doesn’t that very clearly say who didn’t go with the HAL, under which government did that happen?” she said.
The Defence Minister’s statement comes after Congress leader and former defence minister AK Antony, earlier in the day, denied his intervention back in 2013.
He rejected the charge levelled by Sitharaman that an unprecedented intervention by him in 2013 had put the “final nail in the coffin” when the cost negotiation committee was giving final touches to the deal, he said this is completely false.
The former defence minister accused Sitharaman of trying to tarnish the image of public-sector Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) both nationally and globally.
He also asked if the price of the Rafale fighter jets were cheaper than that negotiated by the UPA and why the government bought 36 aircraft instead of 126 from the French company.
The previous UPA government started negotiating in 2012 with French firm Dassault Aviation to buy 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA).
The plan was for Dassault Aviation to supply 18 Rafale jets in fly-away condition while 108 aircraft were to be manufactured in India by the company along with HAL. However, the deal could not be sealed.
(With inputs from PTI)