Amid the ongoing war of words over the nearly Rs 58,000 crore Rafale jet deal, the Deputy Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal R. Nambiar, on Tuesday said the deal for 36 Rafale aircraft by the Narendra Modi government is "much better" than the one negotiated earlier for 126 planes.
Asked about the row over the offset partners chosen by Dassault Aviation, he said: "I believe people are misinformed. There is nothing like Rs 30,000 crore to any one party. Dassault alone has offsets to the tune of over Rs 6,500 crore. Nothing more than that."
"We have evaluated all the aircraft available to us in the past," Nambiar, who recently flew the Rafale in France, told the media in New Delhi.
"All in all, it was a very good deal, much better than what was obtained in 2008," the Deputy Chief of Air Staff said.
"We have looked at six platforms and Rafale has met all our requirements. It has been found the most technically capable as well as commercially viable from our point of view. That is how it has been selected."
Asked about a French media report that there was a push by the Indian government to include Anil Ambani's Reliance Defence in the deal, Nambiar said: "The commercial negotiations were headed by the Deputy Chief of Air Staff and he was responsible for completing the negotiations."
The official said the negotiations continued for "almost 14 months". "We believe we met all the directions of our leadership -- that was to get a better price, better maintenance terms, better delivery schedule and better performance logistic package."
Asked about his experience of flying the Rafale, he said: "It was an opportunity to...look at...the new capabilities on offer for the Indian Air Force. I think the aircraft is shaping up quite well... quite satisfied with the performance of all the systems on the aircraft."
Post the Air Marshal's remarks, the Congress accused the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of dragging the defence forces into politics.
Reacting to Nambiar's remarks, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala told the media here: "We (the Congress) will never get involved in any controversy with the security forces which are supreme for us. However, the BJP is using the security forces for politics. It should not drag them into politics."
"The duty of the defence forces is to protect the nation. The Congress did the deal on the basis of requirements and the criteria put forth by the Indian Air Force. The tender was done on the basis of the demands and approvals from the IAF," he added.
He also emphasised that unlike the BJP, the Congress did not put itself "above the IAF" while finalising the contract.
He claimed that the contract of 126 jet aircraft was done by the Congress after the same number was demanded by the IAF.
Surjewala also questioned the delivery date of the fighter jets, saying that despite it being an emergency purchase, the dates of delivery of the fighter jets is set for 2022.