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Sitharaman’s statement raises more questions than answers on Rafale: Yechury

Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Sitaram Yechury on Saturday said Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s media statement on Rafale has raised more questions than answers, and asked why comparative prices between the earlier scrapped deal for 126 fighter jets and the present one for 36 aircraft had not been shared.

“The Defence Minister’s press conference raises more questions than it answers about the Rafale deal. Why have comparative prices not been shared, as the Modi government claims it bought Rafales cheaper?” Yechury said in a tweet.

“Was there a CCS meeting held and approval given before Modi announced buying of 36 Rafale fighters in Paris on his own in April 2015?,” he said.

The CPI-M leader also questioned why there was no transfer of technology clause in the deal for 36 jets.

“Modi boasts about ‘Make in India’ but signs a deal with France which includes no transfer of technology. Is this his ‘Make in India’?” he said.

Sitharaman in a press conference on Friday had dismissed the Congress’ charge of irregularity in the deal for buying 36 Rafale fighter jets off-the-shelf from France, and claimed it was cheaper than what was negotiated under the previous multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) deal under which 126 fighter jets were to be bought.

The Minister however did not give any figures comparing the prices.

Under the MMRCA deal, 18 Rafale fighters were to be bought off-the-shelf from Dassault, and 108 were to be manufactured in India under licensed production by state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL).

Sitharaman also said that no procedure was violated in the deal that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government signed, and that it was inked after clearance by the Cabinet Committee on Security. She also pointed out that the deal was signed only in September 2016, almost one and a half years after Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the announcement in Paris in April 2015.

The Minister also said that transfer of technology in a deal for just 36 fighter jets was not viable.