Cheers And Questions: How Political Leaders Welcomed India’s Five Rafale Jets
As the country received the first batch of five Rafale fighter jets on Wednesday, there were assertions of Indian armed forces’ strength, praises for the aircraft’s capabilities and questions around its pricing by leaders across the political spectrum.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh chose the occasion to send out a stern message to the country’s adversaries, saying these fighter aircraft will make the Indian Air Force much stronger in deterring any threat and those wanting to threaten its territorial integrity should be worried about its new capability.
Describing the occasion a “proud moment for India”, Home Minister Amit Shah said it is a historic day for the IAF, and noted that the Rafale aircraft are the world’s most powerful machines capable of thwarting any challenge in the sky.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi congratulated the IAF but then took aim at the government, asking it to answer as to why each aircraft cost Rs 1,670 crore instead of Rs 526 crore and why 36 of them were bought instead of 126. He also questioned why a “bankrupt” businessman was given an offset contract and not the government-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.
The Narendra Modi government in the past has refuted Gandhi’s allegations and asserted that the deal’s price was less than what was being negotiated by the Congress-led UPA dispensation.
The Supreme Court had in 2018 rejected litigations seeking a probe into the Rs 59,000 crore deal for the purchase of 36 Rafale aircraft and given a clean chit to the government, saying there was no occasion to doubt the decision-making process in the procurement process.
Welcoming the aircraft’s arrival, Modi posted a Sanskrit shloka which broadly meant that ‘there is no virtue like protecting the nation and there is no vow like defence of the nation’.
The first batch of five Rafale jets arrived at Ambala air force station on Wednesday afternoon, nearly four years after India signed an inter-governmental agreement with France to procure 36 of the aircraft at a cost of Rs 59,000 crore.
Shah said, “Rafale touchdown is a historic day for our vigorous Indian Air Force and a proud moment for India! These are the world's most powerful machines capable of thwarting any challenge in the sky. I am sure Rafale will help our Air warriors to safeguard our skies with its mighty superiority.”
Thanking Modi for providing this “unprecedented strength” to the IAF, the home minister said the induction of the next-generation aircraft is a true testimony of the prime minister’s resolve to make India a powerful and secure nation.
Asserting that the aircraft will further strengthen defence forces, Bharatiya Janata Party president JP Nadda said Modi and Singh have ensured India's security.
They are the best fighter aircraft, he said, adding that their arrival will play a crucial role in the IAF’s suppressing any challenge to the country.
Union minister Smriti Irani remembered late BJP leader Manohar Parrikar who as defence minister had signed the deal in September 2016 and hailed Modi’s leadership.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala welcomed the aircraft’s arrival but asked why the Rafale aircraft are ‘Made in France’ and not ‘Made in India’ and why was their arrival delayed by five years.
BJP ally and LJP president Chirag Paswan hailed the aircraft’s arrival, saying a potent weapon has been inducted in India’s armoury.