Congress's charge on Rafale deal politically motivated: Nirmala

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The Congress vice-president hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his response, and said, "Dear RM (Raksha Mantri), what is shameful is your boss silencing you".

"Between 2004 and 2014, entire decade, the UPA could not arrive at a decision".

Presenting the detailed timeline of the case she pinned the blame of the delay in the deal on the then UPA government.

The defence minister said that the deal was finalised after five rounds of lengthy discussions between Indian and French sides and approval by the Cabinet Committee on Security.

India is buying 36 Rafale fighter jets from France under a government-to-government agreement, and there have been talks of purchasing more of the fighter jets as a follow-on order.

But Sitharaman, despite repeated and pointed questions, did not provide the "comparative costs per aircraft" between the 36-fighter contract inked by the NDA government in September 2016 and the original 126-fighter deal under negotiation during the UPA government's tenure.

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Although government sources have previously argued that the two prices can not be compared because of different add-ons, weapon suites, training, maintenance and infrastructure requirements in the two agreements, Sitharaman said that "we have obtained a far better deal per aircraft (than the UPA)".

Responding to charges levied by the Opposition party, she also said that a "Transfer of Technology" was not sought in this deal as it was not viable and it could have escalated the price. Gandhi tweeted, "Why PM bypassed experienced HAL & gave the deal to AA rated businessman with no defence experience?"

India had inked an inter-governmental agreement with France in September last year for the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets at a cost of around Rs. 58,000 crore, almost one-and-half years after the Prime Minister announced the proposal during a visit to Paris.

"When we came back in power in 2014, the situation was grim". The delivery of the jets is scheduled to begin from September, 2019.

Sitharaman's statement came a day after Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa rebutted the Congress accusations on Rafael.

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