Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday told Parliament that the government will not be able to divulge certain details, such as the per unit cost of the Rafale twin-engine fighter jet.
This, according to the defence minister, was due to a secrecy pact between the governments of India and France.
Congress party’s Rajya Sabha MP MV Rajeev Gowda, in a written question to the Ministry of Defence, asked Sitharaman, “Whether Dassault (the French aircraft manufacturer) was penalised for refusing to fulfil its contractual obligations under the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft Request (MMRCA) deal; if so, the details thereof and if not, the reasons therefore.”
To this, the Defence Minister replied saying, “There was no contract with Dassault for medium multi-role combat aircraft.”
However, it was Sitharaman’s reply to the third part of the MP’s question that raised eyebrows. Gowda asked the minister the “the cost per aircraft under the Inter-Governmental Agreement for 36 Rafale aircraft”.
To this, the Defence Minister said, “As per ‘Article-10’ of the Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) between Government of India and Government of France on the purchase of Rafale aircraft, the protection of the classified information and material exchanged under IGA is governed by the provisions of the Security Agreement signed between the two nations in 2008.”
The first squadrons of the Rafale are set to join the Indian Air Force (IAF) fleet by 2019. While the Rafale will bring much-needed respite for the IAF, the deal has raised several questions.
The Congress had alleged that the government had struck the deal by overpaying for the aircraft. India bought the 36 aircraft at a price of € 7.1 billion.