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Mudda discusses the ongoing row over Rafale jet fighters deal; panellist says India spending more than double of what Qatar is to procure the aircraft

Amidst political row over alleged over-pricing of Rafale jet fighters, Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa has supported the government saying the move is aimed at shoring up depleting numbers in the air force fleet.

Addressing a seminar on “IAF’s force structure, 2035” in New Delhi, Dhanora said, “By providing the Rafale and S-400, the government is strengthening the Indian Air Force to counter the shortfalls of our depleting numbers.”

He further said that “no country is facing the kind of grave threat that India is confronted with. Our neighbours are not sitting idle. China is modernising its air force significantly. Intentions of our adversaries can change overnight. We need to match force level of our adversaries”.

The Air Force chief’s statement comes a day after former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie and lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan had accused the government of using men and women in uniform to defend the Rafale deal. They had alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is personally “culpable” in the scam.

APN chose the issue for a debate during its flagship 60-minute show, Mudda, on Wednesday afternoon. Participants in the debate were Dr Vijay Khera, BJP, Uma Shankar Pandey, Congress, Col Fasi Ahmad, a defence expert, and Govind Pant Raju, the consulting editor of APN. Anant Tyagi anchored the show.

Dr Khera said that his party does not defend itself as the deal is completely clear. He alleged that two leaders, who were not given berths in the Modi cabinet, have been politicising the issue, indicating Yashwant Singh and Arun Shourie.

He also said that the Rafale issue is being raised to divert the people’s attention. He added that making the details of the deal public was not in the nation’s interest.

Pandey, the Congress leader, said that the original deal was concluded during the UPA tenure. It was decided that the Dassault Rafale will be incorporated with 13-enhancements. Now nothing is being added but the question remains that how the cost of each jet fighter increased from Rs 562 crore to Rs 1,560 crore each.

He also said that VP Singh came to power after raising the Bofors corruption case. But after coming into power he was unable to name the accused involved in the said corruption.

Mishra, leader of the NCP, said that Qatar has finalised Rafale deal for Rs 600 crore each but the BJP government has bought the same jet fighters for over Rs 1,500 crore. He further said that BJP cannot get away with the secrecy excuse.

He also said that the country’s interests should be accorded foremost priority. But the opposition has to behave responsibly to counter the misuse of power by the ruling class. During the Congress regime all such details were shared in the parliament but the present government does not follow that tradition.

Ahmad said that there were no two opinions on the need for jet aircraft in the Indian Air Force.

However, Raju said the defence purchases were done in accordance with available funds in the budget. He further said that in fact we are much behind in fulfilling the needs of our forces. However, the budget has certain limitations. In the ideal situation, there should no shortage of funds for our military forces, he added.

—Compiled by MA Kazmi

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