India

Rafale deal: Defence minister doing flip-flop on secrecy clause, there is a scam, claims Rahul Gandhi

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Two days after targetting the government on the Rafale jet deal, Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Sunday accused Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman of doing a “flip-flop” on the secrecy clause. He alleged that there was certainly a “scam” in the controversial deal with France.

In his speech during no-confidence motion in Lok Sabha on Friday, Gandhi had launched a scathing attack on the NDA government over the deal, claiming that French President Emmanuel Macron had told him there is no secrecy pact between India and France. However, hours after the controversial claim, the French government had released an official statement confirming that a secrecy pact exists between the two countries.

Gandhi, in a tweet today, alleged that the prime minister “squirms” when asked about the prices of the fighter aircraft. “Our Defence Minister said she would, but now she won’t. She flip flops between “it’s-not-a-secret” & “it’s-a-BIG-secret”. The PM squirms when asked about the price of RAFALE and refuses to look me in the eye. Sure smells like a scam. #RAFALEscam (sic),” he tweeted.

During his speech, Rahul had accused Nirmala Sitharaman of speaking “untruth”. “The Defence Minister has clearly spoken an untruth,” he had said.

Before giving a hug to the PM, Rahul had also cornered Modi over the deal, saying that he cannot look him into the eye due to nervousness. “I can see him smiling. There is a touch of nervousness. He is looking away, not looking into my eyes.” The truth is that Modi is not a “chowkidar” (guard) but a “bhagidaar” (collaborator) in the wrong-doings,” the Congress chief had said.

“I personally met the French president and asked him if there is such a pact between the French and Indian governments. The French president told me that there is no such pact between the French and Indian governments,” Gandhi had said. “This is the truth, and he told me that I have no objection to it (details of Rafale deal) being made public, you can tell it to entire India.”

PM Modi had called these charges as “distortion of truth”.

The PM had also referred to the issue in his speech. “Just because of one careless allegation in the House on Rafale, both the nations had to release statements. One should not indulge in such childish behaviour,” he had said.

The controversy first broke out on February 5, when Sitharaman told Rajya Sabha that the cost of Rafale aircraft could not be shared since it was a “classified information” under the security agreement between the two countries. In a statement issued two days later, the defence ministry said that “in not revealing the item-wise details of the contract, the government is merely following in letter and spirit the confidentiality provisions of a bilateral India-France agreement of 2008, signed by the previous government.”

Although the French Government released a statement after Gandhi’s claims, saying a 2008 security agreement binds the two countries to protect the classified information, it was not clear whether the provisions of the pact restrict the Indian government to disclose price details of the Rafale deal.

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