UPA Responsible for HAL Being Dropped from Rafale Deal: Sitharaman

Nirmala Sitharaman was responding to accusations made by Congress’ AK Antony on avoiding probe on the Rafale deal.

2 min read
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

Alleging that the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government failed to strengthen Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for better bidding prices, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman gave her rebuttal on Tuesday, 18 September, in Delhi.

“The entire issue of HAL not being chosen happened during their time. Every question should actually go to them. You (UPA) have not taken care of HAL. You have not made the terms appealing enough for HAL to bid it successfully with Dassault,” Sitharaman said, referring to the former UPA regime.

The minister also said the accountability for sidelining the interests of HAL, a state-owned aerospace, lies with the previous governments, and not with the present one.

All questions must go to them, they must take responsibility. We have addressed all concerns including basic prices in Parliament.
Nirmala Sitharaman, Defence Minister

Congress President Rahul Gandhi had also accused the Modi government of tailoring the Rafale deal to benefit “one businessman”, by sealing the deal at a much higher price than the UPA government had fixed during negotiation.

The allegations referred to the joint agreement between Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group and French Company Dassault for supplying 36 fighter jets.

Sitharaman was addressing a press conference at the Indian Women’s Press Corps. She was responding to the accusations made by former Defence Minister A K Antony earlier on Tuesday afternoon, on shying away from setting up a joint parliamentary committee to probe the Rafale deal.

“The Rafale deal didn't happen during UPA. What also didn't happen during UPA was, that between HAL and Dassault, they couldn't agree on production terms. So HAL and Rafale couldn't go together. Doesn't that very clearly say who didn't go together with HAL, under which government did that happen,” Sitharaman asked, adding that Antony should understand the process.

UPA Neglected HAL, IAF: Sitharaman

Sitharaman also alleged that it was the previous government which didn’t take care of the interests of HAL and the Indian Air Force.

“Isn’t it obvious that the interest of HAL could have been taken care of at that time? Neither HAL’s interests nor Indian Air Force’s interest were taken care of by the UPA government,” she said.

“If the agreement between Dassault and HAL did not happen, the facts are before us. What we have done after coming into talking with Dassault, with PM going in 2015 and signing agreement in 2016, has been for an intergovernmental based procurement of 36 aircrafts in ready-to-fly condition,” the minister said.

‘Sidhu’s Hug is Demoralising’

Sitharaman also criticised Navjot Singh Sidhu’s hug with Pakistan’s army chief on Imran Khan’s swearing-in ceremony in Pakistan, calling it “demoralising”.

“It certainly has an impact on soldiers and the people in ministry. Public response has been similar that it demoralises. If it demoralises people, I wish Sidhu would have avoided,” the Union minister said.

“I'm not talking about him going, but that single gesture of hugging the chief of Pakistan’s Army,” she said, adding that “we have clear feelings regarding the army chief.”

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