‘Don’t See Any Scandal, Rafale Will Join IAF Within 6 Months’: French Ambassador to India
The French ambassador Alexandre Ziegler called the Rafale aircraft "very good" and said it is expected to join the Indian Air Force within six months.
French aircraft Rafale manoeuvres during the inauguration of the 12th edition of Aero India 2019 air show at Yelahanka airbase in Bengaluru. (Image: PTI)
Bengaluru: As the Rafale fighter jet, at the centre of a controversy before Lok Sabha elections, took to the Bengaluru skies at the Aero India 2019 on Wednesday, the French envoy to India rejected allegations of corruption in the multi-billion dollar fighter jet deal with India.
French ambassador Alexandre Ziegler, in fact, referred to the aircraft as "very good" and said it is expected to join the Indian Air Force within six months. "I do not see any scandal. What I see is a very good aircraft which has been purchased by Government of India. The aircraft will probably come here (Bengaluru) first and will join the Indian Air Force within six months," Ziegler was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
The ambassador’s claim of Rafale jets joining the IAF in six months comes within a week of CAG report which punched holes in defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s justification – of going for a straight out procurement of 36 aircraft made in France – that it would provide the Indian Air Force with top-of-the-line fighters sooner than the deal being worked under UPA II.
In its report the CAG noted that there was an improvement of just one month in the delivery schedule of the 2016 contract signed between India and France over the previous offer being worked between UPA II and Dassault.
But the report goes on to state that the Indian negotiating team ‘had apprehensions about the achievement of even this delivery schedule, because at the time of signing of the contract M/S DA [Dassault Aviation] had an order backlog of 83 aircraft. “Considering its production rate of 11 aircraft a year, clearing this backlog itself would take more than seven years.”
When CAG sought the response of Ministry of Defence, it was told that the “the project was currently on schedule and the progress was being closely monitored by the resident Project Management Team and also through the Inter-Governmental Bilateral High Level Group.”
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