New Delhi: The decision by the government to purchase 36 Rafale fighter aircraft was made after following all the required procedures, a person familiar with the development said on Thursday, following a media report that suggested irregularities in the process.
“The government has categorically stated earlier as well that all provisions laid down in the Defence Procurement Procedure and other relevant guidelines were fully followed in the acquisition of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft. The apex decision making body for defence acquisitions, the Defence Acquisition Council, chaired by Raksha Mantri, accepted the necessity for the acquisition of Rafale aircraft and mandated the Contract Negotiating Committee," the person cited above said.
“Following the stipulated process, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) accorded its approval to the acquisition on 24 August 2016, and not in September 2016 -- as erroneously claimed in the media report," the person said referring to a story in the Indian Express newspaper on Thursday.
The report quoting unnamed defence ministry officials had said that a senior official of the ministry had raised questions about the price of the Rafale and put his observations on record.
The opposition Congress party has been accusing the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance government of purchasing the 36 Rafale aircraft at a much higher price than the price negotiated by the previous United Progressive Alliance government.
India had settled on the Rafale as its choice for the Indian Air Force in 2012 after floating a global tender. The Indian Air Force has been looking for 126 fighter aircraft to replace its ageing fleet composed mainly of Russian MiGs.
Refuting the Indian Express report, the person cited above said it sought once again to “create confusion through distorted and selective presentation of facts. The report also suffers from several factual errors that impact its entire tone and tenor."
“In making a lot out of certain supposed observations attributed to an individual officer, the report betrays ignorance of the collegiate process involving due deliberations and diligence at various levels, through which all major government decisions are typically taken. While ensuring utmost integrity and transparency, the process allows for opinions to be freely expressed, recorded, discussed and, if necessary, modified," the person said.
“It is most unfortunate that the media report maliciously imputes motives to the absence of the officer in question from the Ministry of Defence headquarters. The officer had signed the note considered and approved by the CCS on 24 August 2016, Thereafter, he proceeded in September 2016 for a one-week training programme -- and not on leave as alleged in the media report -- for which he had applied to the Department of Personnel and Training in July 2016," the person said.
“It has been categorically stressed by the government several times that not only price but also other factors, including maintenance, training, armament and equipment, in the contract for the 36 Rafale fighter aircraft represent better terms as compared to the negotiations conducted but never concluded by the previous government," the person said.
“Parliament has already been informed on 18 July 2018 that the audit of capital acquisition systems, including the Rafale aircraft, is being conducted by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India," the person added.