WION Edit: Rafale deal - National security is above politics

WION Delhi Nov 14, 2019, 08.58 PM(IST)

File photo of a French Airforce Rafale fighter Jet. Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

Threats to national security are complex and mutating every day.

Even before the Rafale deal was signed, it was laced in controversy. The UPA government kept it pending because defence deals in India tend to come with political costs.

And for five full years, the Rafale deal has been the centre of a Congress versus BJP political battle. It was even an election issue.

Name-calling, personal attacks, comments from former presidents of other countries, accusations against an industrialist who's facing a huge debt crisis and contradictory statements by bureaucrats and politicians on the pricing, the Rafale deal saw it all.

On WION edit, we want to explain why this episode is one to avoid in the future. First things first - national security is above politics.

India's defence forces have a chronic shortage of weapons and addressing that problem is of paramount importance.

Because threats to national security are complex and mutating every day. But every time a government, be it the UPA or the NDA, makes a defence deal - there are worries about exposes, pricing, interpretation of clauses, political controversies.

Procurement takes a backseat, politics rules the story. Security takes a hit and scams prevail.

The Congress and the BJP are both claiming a win after the Supreme Court's verdict in the case. But it's more important to take this as a starting point. A lesson to fix the flaws in India's defence procurement policy.

The Modi government's defence procurement policy of 2016 aims to give world-class equipment to Indian forces.

However, the policy has its own set of problems. For instance, procurement is treated as a purchase by the state. That means it has to be transparent, fair and equitable.

This is the best-case scenario. This is also utopian, and therefore, often unachievable.

Why are we saying so? Because defence is a competitive, cut-throat industry. And offset clauses are outside the ambit of procurement safeguards.

That means -- the suppliers like Dassault aviation have complete right to choose their Indian offset partner. In the Rafale case, this led to a political fight!

To be fair to the government, it only had a choice to exclude an offset partner, not choose one. These holes have to be addressed immediately.

As the dust settles on this case, the government must take preventive actions. Moral of the story, don't let politics get in the way of national security. Don't expect the judiciary to engage in policymaking.

Go to courts by all means to expose corruption, but go with tangible evidence not empty rhetoric.

Because that wastes time and money, undermines institutions and compromises systems.

(Disclaimer: WION Edit is the channel's take on the big events of the world)