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Regular-article-logo Wednesday, 17 July 2024

Cong flags Russia call

The Congress said on Wednesday that the defence ministry's refusal to accept a request by the Russian government to make a private Indian firm partner in the contract to manufacture AK-103 rifles exposed the Centre's stand on the Rafale deal.

Our Special Correspondent Published 06.09.18, 12:00 AM
Abhishek Singhvi. File picture

New Delhi: The Congress said on Wednesday that the defence ministry's refusal to accept a request by the Russian government to make a private Indian firm partner in the contract to manufacture AK-103 rifles exposed the Centre's stand on the Rafale deal.

Media reports have suggested that defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman has turned down a Russian request to make another private Indian entity its partner in the joint manufacture of Rs 3,000-crore worth of AK-103 assault rifles for the Indian Army.

Amidst the raging Rafale row, the defence ministry had said the government could not have any role in Dassault Aviation awarding the offset contract to Anil Ambani's firm.

Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said: "The Modi government has reportedly advised Russia that its firm Kalashnikov Concern should tie up with the state-run Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) if it wants its proposal to manufacture the AK-103 assault rifles in India to be considered by the defence ministry. Why did it not apply the same principle in the Rafale deal? Why did the Modi government not advise Dassault Aviation to negotiate further with government-run HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd)?"

Singhvi added: "Especially when the foreign secretary in his customary briefing before the Prime Minister's trip to France on April 8, 2015, said categorically: 'In terms of Rafale, my understanding is, discussions were underway between the French company, our ministry of defence and HAL, which is involved in this. There are ongoing discussions. These are very technical, detailed discussions.'"

The comments were made barely 48 hours before the Prime Minister signed a unilateral contract for 36 Rafale aircraft in Paris on April 10, 2015.

A defence ministry official had been quoted by The Indian Express newspaper a few days ago, saying: "If Russia wants a government-to-government deal, it cannot suggest private sector companies for a JV (joint venture)."

Singhvi recalled that the ministry also said that if the Russians wanted to partner with a private Indian entity, they must come through the "tender route". The Congress leader asked: "Why was this same principle not applied then during the Rafale scam? The government is lying about the AK rifle deal or in the Rafale deal?"

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