Cong, BJP spar over Agusta, Rafale

Hindustan Times (Delhi) - - NATION - HT Cor­re­spon­dent let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.com

NEWDELHI: The Congress on Tues­day ac­cused the gov­ern­ment of com­pro­mis­ing na­tional se­cu­rity and in­ter­est in the pur­chase of 36 Rafale air­craft, a charge dis­missed by the BJP as an at­tempt to di­vert at­ten­tion from the AgustaWest­land chop­per scan­dal.

Al­though the then Con­gressled United Progressive Al­liance (UPA) gov­ern­ment had signed a deal with Das­sault Avi­a­tion in 2012 for the pur­chase of 126 air­craft, the Bjp-led Na­tional Demo­cratic Al­liance (NDA) said it was not vi­able and struc­tured to fail. The NDA bought 36 Rafale fighters in a so-called G2G (gov­ern­ment to gov­ern­ment) deal.

Congress spokesper­son Ran­deep Singh Sur­je­w­ala said in a press brief­ing that the new deal meant each fighter would cost ₹1,570 crore as against ₹526 crore un­der the older deal.

A spokesper­son for In­dia’s de­fence min­istry didn’t re­spond to a re­quest seek­ing com­ment.

He also claimed the NDA gov­ern­ment dropped a key pro­vi­sion in the 2012 agree­ment with Das- sault Avi­a­tion of France, which man­dated the trans­fer of tech­nol­ogy to a rep­utable pub­lic sec­tor un­der­tak­ing, Hin­dus­tan Aero­nau­tics Lim­ited (HAL).

One of the rea­sons for the de­lay in the 2012 deal was that Das­sault was not keen on trans­fer­ring tech­nol­ogy to an In­dian com­pany that wasn’t its part­ner.

Sur­je­w­ala also linked the NDA’S deal with Das­sault to a sub­se­quent part­ner­ship be­tween the French com­pany and the Anil Am­bani pro­moted Re­liance De­fence Lim­ited (RDL).

“On Fe­bru­ary 16, 2017, RDL through its sub­sidiary Re­liance De­fence and Aero­space Lim­ited inks a joint ven­ture with Das­sault Avi­a­tion for de­fence pro­duc­tion. Com­pany’s web­site ...re­flects that they are un­der­tak­ing off­set obli­ga­tions of ₹ 30,000 crore with Das­sault Avi­a­tion for 36 Rafale air­craft. The to­tal cost of 36 Rafale air­craft came to ₹60,000 crore,” Sur­je­w­ala said.

“Why didn’t that JV (joint ven­ture) go through proper pro­ce­dure of ap­proval by the Union Cab­i­net, Cab­i­net Com­mit­tee on Se­cu­rity (CCS) and the For­eign In­vest­ment Pro­mo­tion Board (FIPB)?” asked Sur­je­w­ala.

Re­liance De­fence Lim­ited dis­missed the charges as “base­less and un­founded” and threat­ened to take le­gal ac­tion against any party dis­sem­i­nat­ing “defam­a­tory al­le­ga­tions”.

The firm pointed out that gov­ern­ment pol­icy is­sued on June 24, 2016 al­lowed for 49% FDI (For­eign Di­rect In­vest­ment) in the de­fence sec­tor un­der the au­to­matic route, with­out any prior ap­proval.

“No ap­provals from the Union Cab­i­net or CCS were re­quired for the for­ma­tion of the Joint Ven­ture com­pany un­der the au­to­matic route,” RDL said in a state­ment is­sued in Mum­bai.

“Das­sault Avi­a­tion se­lected Re­liance Aerostruc­ture Ltd as its joint ven­ture part­ner. The In­dian gov­ern­ment has no role to play in this,” it added.

On the al­le­ga­tion that the com­pany would un­der­take off­set obli­ga­tions of ₹30,000 crore, RDL said the press state­ment is­sued by Das­sault and Re­liance on Oc­to­ber 3, 2016 made it clear that off­set obli­ga­tions were to be un­der­taken by Das­sault Re­liance Aero­space joint ven­ture com­pany, and not by Re­liance De­fence.

The com­pany said Das­sault Re­liance Aero­space Ltd would be only one of the key play­ers in the dis­charge of off­set obli­ga­tions.

“Off­sets of ₹30,000 crore cov­ers obli­ga­tions of other OEMS in­clud­ing Thales, Safran & MBDA and not of Das­sault alone….over 500 large, medium and small In­dian com­pa­nies will ben­e­fit from the off­sets which are noth­ing but an ex­port obli­ga­tion for goods and ser­vices from In­dia.”.

The BJP hit back at the Congress with its spokesman GVL Narasimha Rao say­ing that the op­po­si­tion party was “scared at the prospects of its big­wigs…be­ing ques­tioned in the Agustawest­land bribery scan­dal soon for al­leged pay­offs”.

WHILE CONG AC­CUSED BJP OF COM­PRO­MIS­ING NA­TIONAL SE­CU­RITY IN RAFALE DEAL, SAF­FRON PARTY SAID ITS RI­VAL WAS RAK­ING UP IS­SUE TO DI­VERT FO­CUS FROM VVIP CHOP­PER SCAN­DAL

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