Reacting to Congress president Rahul Gandhi's attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government over the Rafale deal, France on Friday said that the details of the deal can't be revealed as it's "classified information".
"We have noted the statement of Mr Rahul Gandhi before the Indian Parliament. France and India concluded in 2008 a Security agreement, which legally binds the two States to protect the classified information provided by the partner, that could impact security and operational capabilities of the defence equipment of India or France. These provisions naturally apply to the IGA concluded on 23 September 2016 on the acquisition of 36 Rafale aircraft and their weapons," the French government said in a statement.
"As the President of the French Republic indicated publicly in an interview given to India Today on 9th March 2018, when a deal is very sensitive, we can’t reveal all details," it added.
Earlier in the day, Congress President Rahul Gandhi accused the government of “lying” to the nation on the issue of sharing details of the Rafale jet deal and described Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a “bhagidaar” (collaborator) in cases of alleged corruption, not a “chowkidaar (guard).
Addressing the Lok Sabha during his speech in the debate on the no-confidence motion against the NDA government, Gandhi said the French president had clearly conveyed to him that there was no problem in sharing details relating to the Rafale deal worth Rs 58,000 crore.
Alleging corruption in the deal, the Congress has been demanding details, including cost of equipment and weapons, but the government has refused to share them citing a secrecy pact with France.
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In one of his sharpest attacks on the government on the issue of alleged graft, Gandhi also trained his guns on Modi.
The truth is that Modi is not a “chowkidar” but a “bhagidaar” in the wrong-doings, the Congress chief said.
“I personally met the French president and asked him if there is such a pact between the French and Indian governments. The French president told me that there is no such pact between the French and Indian governments,” Gandhi said.
“This is the truth, and he told me that I have no objection to it (details of Rafale deal) being made public, you can tell it to entire India,” he said.
The Congress president also alleged that Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman was lying to the country under pressure from the prime minister.
“Who is being helped, why is the help being given, Nirmala ji, the prime minister should tell the country.”
Reacting to French government's denial, Rahul Gandhi said that he stood by what he said in the Parliament.
"Let them deny it if they want. He(French President) said that before me.I was there, Anand Sharma and Dr.Manmohan Singh were also there," Rahul Gandhi was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
Let them deny it if they want. He(French President) said that before me.I was there, Anand Sharma and Dr.Manmohan Singh were also there: Rahul Gandhi on France statement on Rafale deal #NoConfidenceMotion pic.twitter.com/c3FKz40lnj— ANI (@ANI) July 20, 2018
India signed an inter-governmental agreement with France in September 2016 for procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets at a cost of around Rs 58,000 crore, nearly one-and-half years after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the proposal during a visit to Paris.