French President Said No Problem Revealing Rafale Price: Congress Sources

French President Emmanuel Macron had spoken about the Rafale fighter jet deal when Congress president Rahul Gandhi and former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh met him.

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French President Said No Problem Revealing Rafale Price: Congress Sources

Rahul Gandhi has ratcheted his attack on the government over the Rafale fighter jet deal


NEW DELHI:  France does not have any objection to New Delhi disclosing the pricing details of the Rafale fighter jets bought by the government in 2016, visiting French President Emmanuel Macron is learnt to have told Rahul Gandhi, the Congress president and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at their meeting.

Congress sources told NDTV that the French President had broached the topic when the two leaders met him on Sunday, reportedly in light of the party's aggressive campaign against the NDA government over the Rs 58,000 crore deal to buy 36 fighter jets made by the French company Dassault.

Mr Gandhi has called the deal a scam, and challenged the government to come clean on how much was paid for the aircrafts. The Congress claims that the price of the fighter jets was higher than what was finalised by the United Progressive Alliance government which had negotiated a deal for 126 aircrafts.

Mr Gandhi is reported to have underlined that the Congress was supportive of deepening the strategic relationship between the two countries but believed that the price tag for the 36 Rafale aircrafts must be placed in public domain in the interest of transparency.

Sources told NDTV that Mr Macron responded that France had no issues with the details of pricing being disclosed in the interest of transparency and accountability.

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who had initially agreed to give the details, last month told parliament that information about the deal was "classified information" and protected from disclosure under a 2008 pact signed between the two countries.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had backed her up, accusing Congress president Rahul Gandhi of "seriously compromising" the country's security by seeking details of weaponry purchased along with the aircraft. Mr Jaitley added that the UPA government too had declined to put out details of defence purchases in 15 occasions.

But an unrelenting Congress promptly pulled out instances where the UPA had given pricing details of the fighter jets such as Sukhoi-30 MKI.

Congress sources said the French President's unequivocal assertion that his government did not have any issues with revealing the details implied that the government was using the 2008 security pact for non-disclosure as a fig leaf.

In his interactions with the media, Eric Trappier, the chief executive officer of Dassault Aviation, who had accompanied the French President on his India visit, had insisted that the deal for 36 fighter jets was "clean" and its price could not be compared with the 126 jets proposed to be bought by the UPA earlier.

India and France signed the inter-government agreement for buying 36 Rafale fighters, off the shelf, on September 23, 2016, following long negotiations on the deal, agreed upon during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to France in April 2015.

During his last round of campaigning in Karnataka that goes to polls in May, Mr Gandhi, 47, had held the Rafale fighter jet deal as the "biggest issue" of corruption in the country and told the youth in Karnataka that it had taken jobs from them. In an earlier version of the deal, the aircraft was to be manufactured by Bengaluru-based Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, a defence public sector undertaking, in association with Dassault.

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