Congress leader P Chidambaram this morning attacked the government after the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), in a report, called for a review of the Defence Ministry's policy for offsets over the Rs 58,000-crore Rafale deal with French firm Dassault Aviation. The French firm is yet to transfer technical assistance to India as a part of the deal for 36 Rafale jets, the national auditor said in its report that was tabled in the parliament.
"CAG finds that the vendors of the Rafale aircraft have not confirmed the transfer of technology under the offset contract," the 75-year-old Congress leader wrote in a tweet.
"The offset obligations should have started on 23-9-2019 and the first annual commitment should have been completed by 23-9-2020, that is yesterday. Will the government say if that obligation was fulfilled? Is the CAG report the opening of a can of worms? (sic)," Mr Chidambaram said in another post, criticising the government.
In its report, the CAG pointed out: "In the offset of four contracts relating to 36 Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA), the vendors Dassault Aviation and MBDA initially proposed (September 2015) to discharge 30 per cent of their offset obligation by offering high technology to DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation)."
The offset obligations should have started on 23-9-2019 and the first annual commitment should have been completed by 23-9-2020, that is yesterday. Will the government say if that obligation was fulfilled?— P. Chidambaram (@PChidambaram_IN) September 24, 2020
Is the CAG report the opening of a can of worms?
"DRDO wanted to obtain technical assistance for indigenous development of engine (Kaveri) for the Light Combat Aircraft. Till date the vendor has not confirmed the transfer of this technology," the national audit watchdog further underlined, adding that the Defence Ministry's policy of offsets has "not yielded the desired result."
"The (Defence) Ministry needs to review the policy and its implementation. It needs to identify the constraints faced by the foreign suppliers as well as the Indian industry in leveraging the offsets, and find solutions to overcome these constraints," the report further stresses.
The 58,000-crore deal to buy 36 Rafale jets was signed in 2016 by the BJP government. Dassault Aviation said it will eventually meet its offset obligation, which has slowed down in the last few months due to the coronavirus crisis. Five of the 36 jets have been inducted into Indian Air Force.
The Congress has been attacking the government over the purchase of the Rafale jets. Last month, as the first contingent landed in India, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had tweeted: "Congratulations to IAF for Rafale. Meanwhile, can GOI answer: 1) Why each aircraft costs Rs1670 Crores instead of Rs526 Crores? 2) Why 36 aircraft were bought instead of 126? 3) Why was bankrupt Anil given a Rs30,000 Crores contract instead of HAL?"
Congratulations to IAF for Rafale.— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) July 29, 2020
Meanwhile, can GOI answer:
1) Why each aircraft costs ₹1670 Crores instead of ₹526 Crores?
2) Why 36 aircraft were bought instead of 126?
3) Why was bankrupt Anil given a ₹30,000 Crores contract instead of HAL?
The Congress campaign for national election -- held in April-May last year -- was built around the allegation that PM Modi had signed off on an overpriced deal to facilitate an offset contract for Anil Ambani's inexperienced defence company. The government had rubbished the allegations.