France Says Rafale Deal Details Classified, But Rahul Stands Firm on Allegations Against Modi Govt
When asked about the statement by France, Gandhi said, “Let them deny. But I, Anand Sharma and Manmohan Singh were present in the meeting with French President. I stand by what I said".
Rahul Gandhi says he had met Emmanuel Macron when he visited India in March this year. In this photo, the French President is seen with PM Narendra Modi.
New Delhi: The French government has responded to Rahul Gandhi’s assertion in Parliament on Friday that the secrecy pact for the Rafale aircraft deal does not cover pricing details of the fighter jets, saying that the 2008 agreement signed by the two nations legally binds protection of classified information.
Gandhi had launched a no-holds barred attack on the Narendra Modi government during the no-confidence motion in Lok Sabha, saying that France does not have any objection to the government disclosing pricing details of the 36 jets India had bought in 2016.
He alleged that defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman had lied to the nation about the secrecy clause at the behest of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, hinting at massive graft.
The French government, however, said that the 2008 agreement legally “binds the two states to protect the classified information provided by the partner that could impact security and operational capabilities of the defence equipment of India or France.”
These provisions naturally apply to the inter-governmental agreement concluded on 23 September 2016 on the acquisition of 36 Rafale aircraft and their weapons,” it said in a statement.
In the statement, the French government also referred to the interview President Emmanuel Macron had given to India Today, in which he had said that if Narendra Modi government wants to divulge some critical information covered under the secrecy clause of the deal, France would not object to it.
The unusual statement comes just hours before Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address the Lok Sabha and it will give him ammunition to rebut the charges levelled by Gandhi.
The Congress chief had said that he had met Macron when he visited India in March this year and asked him if his government did not want the pricing details to be out.
When asked about the statement by France, Gandhi stood firm by his allegations. “Let them deny. But I, Anand Sharma and Manmohan Singh were present in the meeting with French President. I stand by what I said,” he replied.
The Congress has been attacking the BJP government on the defence deal, accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of causing loss to the state exchequer by buying the fighter jets at an inflated rate.
The Congress leader said defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman refused to disclose the price for the fighter jets citing threat to national security, but Dassault Aviation in its Annual Report of 2016 as also of 2017 says that they sold 36 Rafale aircraft for 7.5 Billion USD or Rs 1,670 crore per aircraft.
The same aircraft was sold to Egypt and Qatar 11 months at Rs 1,319 crore per aircraft and there is a clear-cut loss of Rs 12,632 crore to the state exchequer, he said.
The Rafale deal signed after an international bidding was opened finally on December 12, 2012 and the UPA price as per information in public domain was about Rs 526 crore.
The country’s national auditor CAG is examining the Rafale fighter jet deal worth Rs 58,000 crore. India had signed an inter-governmental agreement with France in September 2016 for procurement of 36 Rafale jets. The delivery of the jets is scheduled to begin from September 2019.
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