New Delhi: In a major slip-up on the Rafale deal, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday unwittingly admitted that no additional weaponry has been added to the aircraft, resulting in an increase in the price over one negotiated by the previous UPA government.
She gave a lengthy explanation why the disclosure of comprehensive price details in the public domain will “not be in the interest of national security,” but she admitted in reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha that “the aircraft is being delivered in the same configuration as tested in the earlier MMRCA (Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft) proposal.”
Her reply came in response to a question by K C Ramamurthy, Congress MP from Karnataka, in the Rajya Sabha. It demolishes the government’s assertion all these months that Rahul Gandhi is harping just on the basic aircraft price while the cost of the aircraft in the deal signed on 23.09.2016 went up because of the weapons, etc. as if that were different from the configuration agreed in the UPA negotiations.
Nor did she refer to the so-called additional configuration jacking up the price in reply to another question by Congress MP Kumari Selja from Haryana. She justified the procurement of 36 Rafale airraft “with better price, better maintenance terms and better delivery schedule in comparison with the 126 MMRCA proposal” but no word on any better configuration.
She said the 2016 agreement stipulates “procurement of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft in fly-away condition, along with an initial consignment of weapons, maintenance support through Performance Based Logistic (PBL), Simulator and associated equipment.