New Delhi: IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa has backed the government on the controversial Rafale deal amid a raging political row, saying the move is aimed at shoring up depleting numbers in the air force fleet.
“By providing the Rafale and S-400, the government is strengthening the Indian Air Force to counter the shortfalls of our depleting numbers,” Dhanoa said at a seminar on 'IAF's force structure, 2035'.
“No country is facing the kind of grave threat that India is confronted with. Our neighbours are not sitting idle. China is modernising its air force significantly. Intentions of our adversaries can change overnight. We need to match force level of our adversaries,” he added.
The air force chief’s statement comes a day after the government was accused of using men and women in uniform to defend the Rafale deal. Addressing a press conference, former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie and lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan had alleged Tuesday that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is personally "culpable" in the scam.
IAF Vice Chief Air Marshal SB Deo, too, had recently backed the Rafale purchase calling it a "beautiful" aircraft. He had said that those criticising the deal must understand the procurement norms.
During his visit to France, Modi on April 10, 2015 announced that India will purchase 36 Rafale jets in a government-to-government agreement. The Rs 58,000 crore deal was sealed in September 2016.
The opposition has also been accusing the government of trying to benefit the Reliance Defence Ltd (RDL) under the offset clauses of the deal. The Reliance Defence has strongly rejected the charges.
Reacting to Dhanoa's statement, the Congress has alleged that the air force was "completely involved" in the deal from 2007-2012 as the recommendations were put in by the air force.