Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday termed as "absolutely wrong" Congress President Rahul Gandhi's claim that there was no
confidentiality clause in the Rafale aircraft deal with France. She said the initial agreement was signed when the UPA was in power in 2008.
Sitharaman was making an intervention after Gandhi attacked the Modi government and the defence minister on the Rafale deal during the debate on no-confidence motion in Lok Sabha and alleged that she had spoken "untruth" when she claimed that the Indian government could not reveal details of the deal due to a confidentiality clause in the agreement with France.
The minister said the India-France agreement to buy the fighter jets was signed in 2008 by the then defence minister A K Antony and it had the confidentiality clause.
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"It was an agreement of secrecy. Protection of classified information. I am not privy to what the French President told Rahul Gandhi. But I am referring to two particular interviews that the French President had given to Indian TV channels.
"In the interviews, the French President had said that commercial details of the Rafale deal cannot be revealed," she said.
Participating in the debate, Gandhi accused the defence minister of speaking "untruth" on the deal.
"The Defence Minister has spoken 'untruth'.... The French prime minister has personally told me that there is no secret pact between Indian and French governments," he said demanding that the prime minister answer why this contract was given to a particular businessman after taking it away from PSUHindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
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"Everybody understands the relationship the prime minister has with certain people. Everybody understands the amount of money that goes into the marketing of the prime minister and everybody knows who have funded that. One of those people was given the Rafale contract.... The gentleman benefited to the tune of Rs 45,000 crore," he alleged.
India had signed a government-to-government deal with France in 2016 to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets at a cost ofabout Rs 58,000 crore.
The Congress has been demanding that its details be made public, alleging that the deal negotiated under its rule was much cheaper than the contract signed by the Modi government.
Meanwhile, just hours after Gandhi claimed that he had met French President and talked about the secrecy clause in the Rafale fighters deal, France on Friday asserted that the security agreement of 2008 in this regard legally binds the two nations to protect classified information.
Disproving Congress president’s claim, France added that the provisions of this agreement is also applicable to the Inter-Governmental Agreement on 36 Rafale aircrafts. The negotiations for the same concluded in September 2016.
“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,” said Rahul Gandhi on France's statement on Rafale deal.
(With inputs from agencies)