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Transparency in Rafale deal

iasparliament
September 14, 2018
12 days
580
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What is the issue?

Lack of transparency in the purchase of Rafale fighter aircrafts from France lead to the demands of making details of the deal public.

What are the concerns regarding the modified deal?

  • Modification on the number of aircrafts to be purchased from 126 to just 36 aircrafts short-circuited the due procedure.
  • Higher price for aircrafts in the new deal, without obtaining a qualitatively superior fighter was witnessed.
  • By accepting all 36 aircrafts in “flyaway” condition, it left out the possibility of “Make in India” component.
  • The absence of transfer of technology (ToT) component creates void on the role guaranteed for any Indian public sector company, including HAL.

What are the arguments from the government’s side?

  • As the price details come under "classified information" and the Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) between the Governments of India and France, Defence Minister declined to share the cost of the Rafale fighters under the new deal.
  • However, basic price of the French aircraft has already been disclosed to the Parliament.
  • Accordingly, Minister of State for Defence in 2016 had shared the price in the Lok Sabha in a written reply.
  • The basic price of each Rafale aircraft was said to be around Rs 670 crore, totalling to Rs 59,000 crore for all the 36 aircrafts.
  • They also say that the Air Force cannot absorb more than two squadrons in the given time because of infrastructure and other technical constraints.
  • It raises serious doubts since the induction of all the 36 aircrafts will be over six to seven years from the contract signing.

What should be done?

  • The government cannot argue that every detail relating to the Rafale is confidential and putting anything out would endanger IAF pilots.
  • The government has to explain the process and time line by which seven squadrons were reduced to two in the modified deal.
  • It has to list the India-specific changes to the aircraft and the itemised cost.
  • It also has to give a break-up of the weapons suite which presumably was not in the original bid.
  • Finally, it has to detail how the new maintenance commitments are different from the earlier ones.
  • Generally, cost of defence deals be shared with Parliament, although some details can be kept secret, citing reasons of national security.
  • Nevertheless, the government is duty-bound to share the pricing details with Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) and the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament.
  • Thus the government is duty-bound to account for the expenditure of public funds else it would set a dangerous precedent to shirk that duty by citing national security.

 

Source: Business Standard

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