Rafale deal was done with national security as a priority, says Nirmala Sitharaman in Parliament

WION Web Team
New Delhi, Delhi, IndiaUpdated: Jan 04, 2019, 05:09 PM IST

File photo of Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. Photograph:(Zee News Network)

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Sitharaman attacked the Congress saying it did not intend to buy the aircraft till something else was done.

Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman defended the government's move to buy Rafale fighter jets declaring that the country's "national security" was the government's top priority.

"You stopped the deal, forgetting the Air Force was suffering because it didn't suit you. The deal didn't get you money," a defiant Sitharaman told the Congress in Lok Sabha.

"Delivery of first Rafale will happen in 2019, the last aircraft of 36 jets will be delivered in 2022," India's defence minister informed the lower house of Parliament, while adding that "none of the figher aircraft were available "off the shelf".

"Our government got the jets for a lower price," the defence minister told the Lok Sabha. "CAG is conducting a performance audit of capital acquisition of air systems including the 36 Rafale. The complete draft audit report has been received by the Ministry of Defence in December. Response is under preparation," the minister added.

Sitharaman attacked the Congress saying it did not intend to buy the aircraft till something else was done. The defence minister attacked the Congress president Rahul Gandhi declaring that he lied about meeting French president Macron about the deal.

"There is something different between defence deal and deal in defence. We deal with national security as a priority," Nirmala Sitharaman said.

"Congress is shedding crocodile tears over HAL not getting the deal, why didn't it settle issues during its term," she asked. 

The defence minister said there was no deal being struck between Dassault and HAL. Sitharaman said one Congress leader even called the Air chief a "liar". The defence minister accused the Congress of dragging its feet on the jet deal.

"Congress does not want to hear facts," she said. 

"Have you (Rahul Gandhi) apologised after having winked an eye at the PM, after hugging the PM? This is not the way a House should run," Sitharaman lashed out, adding, "I don't have a khandan(pedigree) to boast on. PM also comes from a poor background. He has come here from hard work. I have my honour intact. PM has his honour intact. We have all come from normal backgrounds."

Replying to Sitharaman, Rahul Gandhi said: "Price is not part of the secrecy pact. My question is Anil Ambani was brought in for the contract. Who was the one to decide on Anil Ambani?"

The Congress president conceded that he had made a mistake by calling French President Macron as an ex-president. "I make mistakes. Yes, he is the current president, Mr Macron," Rahul Gandhi said.