What is the Rafale deal controversy?

New Delhi: The controversy over the Rafale deal relates to the purchase of 36 multi-role fighter aircraft by the Indian Defence Ministry from France’s Dassault Aviation. During an official visit to France in April 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that India would acquire 36 fully built Rafales, citing “critical operational necessity”.

In September 2016, India and France signed an inter-governmental agreement for the acquisition of 36 of these aircraft at a cost of Rs590 billion (Dh29.51 billion).

In November 2016, however, political warfare over the deal began with the opposition Congress accusing the government of causing “insurmountable loss” of taxpayers’ money by signing the deal. It claimed that the Anil Ambani-led Reliance Defence Limited had been unfairly picked to be the French firm’s offset partner in the deal. Congress also alleged that the cost of each aircraft, as negotiated under the Modi-led government, was three times more than what the previous Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government had negotiated with France in 2012.

The claims were rebutted by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, with the government saying that the renegotiated deal was better than the one negotiated by the UPA government as it included a superior logistical support, which had been absent in the previous one. Sitharaman said the details of the deal could not be disclosed as per the inter-governmental agreement as it was “classified information”.

The delivery of Rafale jets is scheduled to begin from September, 2019.

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