Rafale Offset Partner Row: VK Singh Defends Anil Ambani's Reliance Defence, Says HAL Lacks Capability
File image of MoS External Affairs and former Army chief, Gen (retd) VK Singh | (Photo Credits: PTI)

Pune, February 14: Amidst the ongoing controversy over the Rafale Deal, former Indian Army Chief and Minister of State for External Affairs General (Retd) VK Singh on Wednesday raised questions over the capability of the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to manufacture quality fighter jets. Referring to the February 1 incident in which two pilots died in a crash of Mirage 2000 trainer aircraft in Bengaluru, Gen (R) Singh said, “Look at the condition of HAL. Our two pilots died. Sorry to say, but the programmes at HAL are running late by three-and-a-half years...parts of aircraft are falling off on the runway. Is this capability? On the other hand, we say that HAL is not getting the (Rafale) work.”

Talking to reporters in Pune, the former minister also defended the Rafale Deal by the Narendra Modi government. He said that the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France was necessary to enhance the Indian Air Force's capabilities. Responding to Congress’ allegations over the offset contract given to Anil Ambani’s reliance Naval and Engineering Limited, Gen (R) Singh said that it was the French, who decided the offset firm. He further added, “The objective of the offset is to allow the industry to thrive here...if their firm is not satisfied with HAL, it is their decision...it is not the decision of the Indian government.”

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the Modi government table the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report on the Rafale Deal in the Rajya Sabha. The CAG report titled “Capital Acquisition in Indian Air Force, which is of 141 pages, has 32 pages dedicated to the Rafale deal. In the report, it was revealed that the Rafale deal concluded in 2016 was 2.8 percent cheaper than the proposed deal of 2007 by the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.

However, the report also pointed out that the Modi government could have purchased Rafale aircraft at 14 per cent cheaper had the Ministry of Defence (MoD) succeeded in removing some items from the aircraft which were not required by the Indian Air Force (IAF). The CAG objected to the selection of Rafale fighter jets on several grounds in its report. Dassault was provided with the opportunity to "significantly modify its technical and price bids (submitted earlier) in clear violation" of the Defence Procurement Procedure, it said.