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PM’s Rafale remark an “insult” to IAF, its pilots: Prithviraj Chavan

Pune | Senior Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan on Monday said Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement on Rafale was an “insult” to the Indian Air Force (IAF) and its pilots.

Referring to Modi’s statement that the presence of Rafale fighter jets would have given greater firepower to the IAF during the February 27 aerial engagement with Pakistan, Chavan said the PM was politicising the issue.

The former Union minister said the PM’s statement indicates India lost the “dogfight” with Pakistan. He cited a report in a leading US daily which talks about India’s “defeat” in the dogfight and raises questions about its “vintage” military.

Chavan said the international media is also raising certain questions about the February 26 air strikes inside Pakistan, but the Centre is unable to come out with answers. “The report in the international media and the prime minister’s statement at the ‘India Today Conclave’ (on Rafale) is a confession that India faced defeat in the (dog) fight with Pakistan.

“The statement made by PM is condemnable as it was an insult of IAF and its pilots,” said Chavan. He said the PM should stop politicising the issue and apologise for his remarks.

The former Maharashtra chief minister said Modi, by making such statements, also implied that there was a delay in aircraft procurement during the rule of Congress-led UPA.

“However, I would like to say that the delay had taken place in the three years of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government and five years of the current Modi government,” he said. He said during the UPA rule, it was the IAF which was at the centre of preparing service agreements.

“There was a delay of one-and-a-half years after 2012 contract negotiations started as UPA was insisting that 108 Rafale aircraft should be made at Hindustan Aeronautical Ltd (HAL),” he said. “The Modi government delayed the process as they wanted to give offset contract of the Rafale deal to Ambani,” he said.

The Congress has been alleging that on the Modi government’s insistence, French company Dassault, makers of Rafale, awarded an offset contract to Reliance Defence, a firm owned by industrialist Anil Ambani, overlooking state-owned HAL which has an expertise in aircraft manufacturing. The government has repeatedly denied the charge.

Ambani, too, has rejected the Congress allegations and emphasised that the government had no role in Dassault picking up his company as a local partner.

Talking about the Balakot air strike, he said the IAF successfully completed the task assigned to it. They (IAF) were given particular coordinates about the targets and they hit it on them using ‘Spice’ bomb but it seems that the ground intelligence failed about the presence of terrorists over there, he said.

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