Arun Jaitley tears into Congress over Rafale deal, accuses it of 'seriously compromising' country's security

Rahul Gandhi on Thursday continued his attack on the government over the Rafale aircraft deal.

Arun Jaitley tears into Congress over Rafale deal, accuses it of 'seriously compromising' country's security
Pic courtesy: dassault-aviation.com

New Delhi: Hitting back at the Congress over the Rafale deal, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday accused the grand old party of "seriously compromising" country's security by seeking details of armaments purchased along with the aircraft.

He also advised Congress chief Rahul Gandhi to "learn" from former defence minister Pranab Mukherjee "lessons on national security."

"Your party was stigmatised when you were in government because of allegations of corruption. Now the new act is, let us manufacture an allegation of corruption against the NDA. So when you couldn't find anything, you said please disclose the price of the Rafale deal," Jaitley said while replying to the debate on the budget.

"I charge the Congress of seriously compromising India's security... Mr Modi has run a clean government for last 4 years, so let us, manufacturer, a crisis, let us manufacture an issue. And the manufactured issue is, please tell me the details of the Rafale deal," the FM said in the Lok Sabha referring to the demands by the Congress to make public details of the government-to-government deal to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets from France.

Defending the government's decision against making the break-up of the deal public, Jaitley said when UPA was in power, then defence ministers Pranab Mukherjee and AK Antony had on 15 occasions told Parliament that giving out such details would be against the interest of national security, PTI reported.

He said one of the questions then related to missiles being procured from Israel. The FM further said that Rahul should go to Mukherjee and "get lessons on national security."

Jaitley said security pacts were inherent part of defence transactions "because when you disclose the details of the price, you can give an approximate price, but when you give those specific details, you are giving details of the weapon system that you possess, and the capacity of the weapon systems which you don't want to inform the enemy."

Disclosing Rafale details will compromise national security: Government

The government on Wednesday too had called "unfounded" allegations made by the Opposition about the deal for Rafale jets and had asserted that the demand to disclose details such as its value was "unrealistic" as doing so might compromise India's national security.

In a statement, the defence ministry had said the earlier UPA government had also expressed its inability to disclose the price of various defence procurements, including in its responses to Parliament questions, in keeping with confidentiality requirements.

Giving an item-wise cost and other information would reveal details about weapons systems and customisation of the jet, it had said and had added that the government was bound by the confidentiality provisions of a 2008 Indo-France pact in not sharing details of the deal.

The government had also said that "doubts" were sought to be created about the contract and had insisted that the deal secured by the government was better in terms of capability, price, equipment and delivery than the one "notionally" negotiated by the UPA regime in a process which it could not conclude even in 10 years.

Rahul's attack on the government over Rafale deal:

Rahul has been targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the deal to buy Rafale fighter jets. He said on Thursday that PM was not answering his questions because there was something "fishy" in it.

Rahul said that Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had first announced that she would inform the nation about the cost of purchasing Rafale aircraft but was now saying she could not do so as it was a state secret. "Which of her two statements are correct," he asked.

The Congress chief also posed three questions to PM Modi. These included the aircraft's cost and "handing over" the deal to a businessman after "snatching" it from a public undertaking.

However, there was no reply, he said. "There can be only one answer and it is that there is something fishy about this," Rahul said.

Earlier on Wednesday too, after PM Modi's reply in the Lok Sabha to the motion of thanks on the President's address, he had said that Prime Minister needs to answer the country on questions posed to him on the Rafale deal, farmers and jobs instead of making allegations in Parliament.

And on Tuesday the Congress president had alleged that there was a "scam" in the fighter aircraft deal between India and France.

Rahul's attack had come a day after Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman ​on Monday had refused to share the details of the deal on the grounds of the security agreement signed between India and France.

Her response was to a written question in Rajya Sabha by Samajwadi Party member Naresh Agrawal, who had asked whether the government did not want to disclose in public domain the agreement between India and France for purchasing the aircraft.

(With PTI inputs)

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