Former Chief of the Indian Air Force, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha (Retd.), said that the political controversy over the Dassault Rafale is denting the image of the country before the eyes of the world.
Speaking to the media on the sidelines of a defence seminar organised by Bharat Chamber of Commerce in Kolkata, Raha said that everything related to the deal for 36 fighter jets from France is well-documented.
“Rafale-like controversies lower a nation’s esteem as the world is watching. These are big-ticket purchases. Something may be wrong or something may be right,” Raha said, adding, “Everything is well-documented. There is nothing to hide. The stakeholders (government and the Opposition) may always organise a confidential meeting and discuss it.”
Raha said that such controversies such as the Rafale deal were not good for the defence capability of a nation as the faith in the system would be lost.
According to reports, the former CAS suggested the setting up of a panel composed of ruling and opposition parties which can hold a “confidential” meeting to resolve the controversy.
ACM Raha (Retd.) served as the Chief of the Indian Air Force from 31 December 2013 to 31 December 2016.
Raha’s comment comes days after Chief of the Indian Air Force, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa put his weight behind the government over the deal saying India needs the fighters more than any other country in the face of the “grave threats” it is facing.
Speaking at an event on 12 September, ACM Dhanoa said that intentions of adversaries could change overnight and the Air Force needed to match their force level.
“Very few countries are facing challenges like us. We have two nuclear-armed neighbours. We have to match neighbours Pakistan and China to tackle a two-front war,” Dhanoa said at a seminar on ‘IAF’s force structure, 2035’.
“By providing the Rafale and the S-400 (anti-missile system), the government is strengthening the Indian Air Force to counter the shortfall of our depleting numbers of aircraft,” he said at the event.
Before the ACM’s comment, Air Marshal SB Deo, Vice-Chief of Indian Air Force, had batted in favour of the fighter jet calling it “beautiful and capable”.
“I shouldn’t comment but I can tell you all this discussion going on Rafale…because we know a lot about how everything went, we find that people don’t have information. We’re waiting for the aircraft. Rafale is beautiful and capable,” he said on 5 September.
Air Marshal Deo’s comment was the first from a top Air Force officer in the midst of the controversy triggered by Congress which has been alleging that the NDA government had helped Anil Ambani’s firm benefit from the deal.
The party also alleges that the price of every aircraft in the new deal signed by the NDA government and French government is around three times more than the one signed in the deal during the UPA regime.