In the defence of India’s defence - The story of Rafale
Yesterday, another 5 Rafale aircraft were handed over to India which will now help the IAF to modernise their weaponry.
It was 1999, Kargil war was going on and then Mirage 2000s were deployed and turned the tide in India’s favour. Retired Indian Air Force officials who fought during the Kargil War have hailed the Mirage 2000s as the game-changer at various occasions. These fighter jets did not only impress the Indian Armed Forces but also the then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, so much so that he was determined to buy the next fighter jets from French company Dassault Aviation. And this is how the Rafale Fighter Jets came into the fray.
A tender under Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP), which was first introduced in 2002 to provide probity, transparency and a structured procedure which would streamline the procurement of military hardware for the Armed Forces in a time-bound manner, was initiated and named MMRCA (Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft) competition for 126 fighter jets which was won by the French company Dassault on January 31, 2012. It must be noted that the competition was initiated on 28th August 2007.
Initially the deal was for 126 aircraft of which 18 were to be made by Dassault Aviation in France and the rest of 108 aircraft will be made by the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, India. The problem arose when Dassault categorically declined to take full responsibility for the aircraft manufactured in India and they also increased the price for the jets that were to be manufactured in India. This delayed the process for several years.
In 2015, Narendra Modi came to power with the majority and the government decided to directly negotiate with the French President and seal the deal of the Dassault Rafale but this time only for 36 aircraft. This is where politics started where opposition parties started blaming the government for buying the jets at a much higher price and lowering the number of aircraft to be bought to 36.
The opposition also attacked the government with various other clauses, which includes but is not limited to, transfer of technology, the reinvestment partner of Dassault and started calling this whole deal as a scam. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the opposition concocted a theory and tried to fit the same in the mind of the general public when India was about to go to polls and failed miserably.
Since then the Rafale scam song of the opposition has stopped and it raises various questions such as were the intentions of opposition parties really adding to the democratic values? Was even there any scam? Were the oppositions lying? Such incendiary statements only harm the reputation of the parties at large. Some of the opposition leaders even went ahead and made preposterous claims about the government handling of this whole procurement.
The government, on the other hand, tried its best to keep the information away from the public domain until they were ordered by the Supreme Court to publicize the documents related to the procurement including the price of the deal. There also was a case in the Supreme Court of India to stop the government from carrying out this deal which was later rejected by the court.
Time passed and then came the time to get the first aircraft and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh went to France. He did the Shastra Pooja in October 2019 during the handover of First Rafale Jet. It is noteworthy that in 8 years the earlier congress government could not buy one single wheel of the Rafale.
IN 2015, the BJP leader Subramanian Swamy called the Rafale the worst of the worst jets after analysing its performance in Libya and Egypt. He also requested PM Modi not to go ahead with the deal and threatened to seek legal options if the government won’t heed to him. He also claimed TDK (The Dark Knight) which he reportedly uses to refer Sonia Gandhi, has received hefty bribes for the Rafale deal. This all sounded like mudslinging.
The new deal cost India around ₹58,000 Crores which is around ₹1611 Crores for each fighter jet. In their review of this whole deal, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India reported that the current deal is 2.86% cheaper than the earlier deal during the UPA government.