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Revealing Rafale deal details not in national interest: FM

| | New Delhi

Citing past precedents, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday reiterated the Government’s stand that pricing details of Rafale or any Defence transactions cannot be made public. Jaitley was replying to vociferous Congress MPs demanding the details of the Rafale deal in the Lok Sabha during the discussion on the Budget. Earlier Congress president Rahul Gandhi said there was something “fishy” about Rafale deal.

“When you give details of a defence transaction, you give the details and capacity of the weapon system, which you don’t want to inform the enemy. At least 15 previous Defence Ministers, including Pranab Mukherjee and AK Antony, have refused to give details of armament purchases,” said Jailtey, replying to the volley of questions from the Congress MPs amid chaos in the House.

“UPA’s new strategy is to manufacture corruption charges. Secrecy is an inherent part of any deal. The Congress is compromising national security by asking for details which should not be made public, by which I mean known to the enemy. My charge is Opposition is seriously compromising India’s security by asking price of Rafale deal,” said Jaitley to the protesting Congress MPs who repeated that the Government is accountable to Parliament.

Jailtey said that the Congress MPs should go to former President Pranab Mukherjee and learn lessons from him. Jailtey cited similar kind of replies given by Mukherjee and Antony while rejecting the questions on pricing of Defence purchases earlier.

The chaos forced Jaitley to abruptly end his speech and prompted Speaker Sumitra Mahajan to declare that speech of Jaitley will be considered as tabled.

Before the Finance Minister’s speech, Congress president Rahul Gandhi continued his attack on the Government over the Rafale aircraft deal and said Prime Minister Narendra Modi was not answering his questions because there was something “fishy” in it. Referring to Modi’s speeches in Parliament, he told reporters that it was clear that the Prime Minister was not interested in answering “fundamental questions”.

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, he said, had first announced that she would inform the nation about the cost of purchasing Rafale aircraft but was now saying she could not do so as it was a state secret. “Which of her two statements are correct,” he asked.

Rahul said he had also posed three questions to Modi. These included the aircraft’s cost and “handing over” the deal to a businessman after “snatching” it from a public undertaking. However, there was no reply, Gandhi said. “There can be only one answer and it is that there is something fishy about this,” he said.



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