Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar on Saturday accused former Defence Minister A K Antony of creating a “logjam” over the Rafale fighter jet deal and asserted that the acquisition of the French aircraft has given India a superiority over Pakistan in terms of air power.
Parrikar, who succeeded UPA’s Antony as Defence Minister when NDA came to power in 2014, was speaking at the Goa Arts and Literature Festival in Panaji after launching a book ‘Securing India The Modi Way’, penned by Nitin Gokhale.
Parrikar said a day before Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed the Rafale jet deal with the French government, he (Parrikar) had addressed a meeting of officials from the Air Force to work out a solution to the “logjam” created by the Congress leader.
“Antony had put strange noting on the file dealing with Rafale purchase. He mentioned on the file ‘start discussion, finalise price and after everything is finished please come back to me’ with all the documentary evidence of how the Rafale company was the lowest (bidder). Now the CVC (Central Vigilance Commission) guideline says you can’t negotiate with anyone other than the lowest (bidder). The files were going in circles and circles,” he said.
Parrikar, who left the Union ministry to become Goa chief minister in March 2017 said, for two and a half years the file was “doing rounds in a circle, we broke the circle by deciding that we will have to go for a different approach”.
Referring to the Congress’s allegation about the “high price” of Rafale jets, he said “a fighter aircraft is not only an aircraft, the aircraft is probably a smaller part of the total cost. The real cost comes in purchasing special equipment.”
The deal covered a particular kind of helmet worn by the pilot, Parrikar said. “… the target is locked by watching at it. It is virtually 360 degrees visibility. Here the pilot just has to watch opponent’s target and press the button, the computer does the rest. That cost of development of helmet is included in the deal,” he said.
The former defence minister said that in 1999, the Indian Air Force succeeded in pushing out its Pakistani counterpart out of the Kargil conflict zone, because India had Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missiles with a range of 30 km on SU30 and MiG 29 aircrafts.
“Pakistan had only about 20 km range … due to which they remained away,” he said.
However, between 1999 and 2014, Pakistan acquired a capacity of 100 km range whereas India had upgraded its BVR up to 60 km on SU30, he said.
“We were now in danger of being shot down by Pakistani fighters staying 100 km away and not being able to retaliate and Rafale deal took care of this with a missile with a range of 150 km fitted on aircraft,” Parrikar said.
“An aircraft may cost 90 million euros but other components will cost you 150 million euros because you have to make it fighting-fit,” the former Union minister said.
“Unfortunately we deal with the purchases of fighters as if we are buying toor dal and mung dal” he said, claiming the Congress leaders “do not know anything” about Defence.