Disclosure punctures Opposition charges of wrong doing in Rafale procurement
No sovereign guarantee has been obtained nor any integrity pact signed in the recent $5.43 Billion (40,000 Crore) government-to-government deal with Russia for the S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems, the Indian Air Force acknowledged in New Delhi on February 12.
The clarification came from Deputy Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal VR Chaudhary in the context of the raging controversy over the Rafale fighter deal, over which the Government is now under renewed attack by the Opposition Congress party and a section of the media for not obtaining a sovereign guarantee from the Government of France nor signing an Integrity Pact. India signed a 7.8 Billion Euro government-to-government deal with France on September 23, 2016 for the procurement of 36 Rafale fighters.
The import of the clarification from the top brass of the IAF is that there's no precedent of a sovereign guarantee by any foreign government in any government-to-government defence deal with India. Most defence procurements from Russia are through the government-to-government route. Several government-to-government defence deals have also been signed with the US. Most such deals with Russia and the US have been signed during the tenure of the Congress-led UPA Governments without any sovereign guarantee. The Congress is now at the forefront of accusations that the Modi Government decision to sign the Rafale deal without a sovereign guarantee compromises Indian interest. The IAF's clarification exposes the Opposition claims as opportunistic.
The import of the clarification from the top brass of the IAF is that there's no precedent of a sovereign guarantee by any foreign government in any government-to-government defence deal with India.
"Government-to-government contracts (as opposed to commercial deals with companies) are unique. The Defence Procurement Procedure provides flexibility for these deals," the Vice Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Anil Khosla added, indicating that there was no wrong doing in signing the Rafale deal without a sovereign guarantee.
Air Marshal Khosla reiterated the IAF position in strongly endorsing the Rafale deal. "Yes, the aircraft is required. Yes, it's good," he said while responding to questions by the media during a press conference to announce Vayu Shakti, a major demonstration of the IAF's firepower at Pokhran on February 16.
"The IAF fully supports Make in India and indigenisation programmes, and efforts made by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the Defence Industry. It is not true that we want equipment only from abroad. An indigenous platform is always preferred, provided it meets all the capability requirements," Air Marshal Khosla said, seeking to dispel the impression that military procurement process was skewed towards imports, which inevitably draw charges of corruption.
Most such deals with Russia and the US have been signed during the tenure of the Congress-led UPA Governments without any sovereign guarantee. The Congress is now at the forefront of accusations that the Modi Government decision to sign the Rafale deal without a sovereign guarantee compromises Indian interest. The IAF's clarification exposes the Opposition claims as opportunistic.
The Vice Chief expressed strong commitment to the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft Tejas. The LCA, he emphasised, was an important element in the IAF's "Drawdown Mitigation Plan" to counter the sharply depleting fighter squadron strength. "The authorised strength is 42 squadrons. At the moment, it is very low. We are at 31 squadrons. We're planning to induct six squadrons of the LCA long with two of the Rafale and six of the (new) Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft," he said, detailing the IAF's plan to rebuild its fleet. "The order has been placed for 40 LCAs. (Additional orders of) 83 more are in process," he said.
"We also fully support the (indigenous fifth generation fighter) AMCA, which is being developed by DRDO," the Vice-Chief added.
The Tejas and other indigenous platforms and equipment like the Advanced Light Helicopter, the Akash air defence and Astra beyond visual range air-to-air missile will also feature prominently in the Vayu Shakti firepower demonstration.
An estimated 138 aircraft will be fielded for Vayu Shakti, which will also be witnessed by foreign military attaches.
The upgraded MiG-29 fighter will also be fielded for the first time after the enhancement of its capabilIty, the Vice-Chief disclosed.
But Air Marshal Khosla cautioned that the squeezing of budgetary funding for Defence "will slow down capability building". He said the armed forces are getting less than the requirement, and trying to optimise spending and rationalise the requirements.