Three Rafale fighter jets manufactured by the French company Dassault have landed in Bangalore in South India and are slated to take part in the five-day 12th edition of Aero India show beginning February 20. The planes landed at Yellahanka air base close to the city and were received for the show. NDTV has reported that the Deputy Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal R.K. Singh Bhadauria has said in October last year that these are not the planes meant for the Indian air force and are only coming for demonstration purpose.

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Controversy

The Rafale deal is mired in controversy with the opposition led by Rahul Gandhi accusing the Prime minister Narendra Modi of personal corruption and giving a contract for manufacture to his friend Anil Ambani who was on the verge of bankruptcy. There is little doubt that the PM himself negotiated the deal as he bypassed the Defence Minister and others in a direct deal with President Hollande of France. News 18 has reported that two of the planes will be used for flying exercises while a third will be for static display.

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Anil Ambani

The deal has generated great controversy, and a stung Anil Ambani has sued NDTV for Rs 100 crores (11 million pounds) for defamation. However, it is on record that his company which is to manufacture the components for the Rafale was launched just ten days before Modi signed the deal.

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Military

He also reportedly told the French authorities that he would be getting the contract even before it was signed and Modi had visited France to finalise the deal personally.

The CAG report on the deal has been tabled, but it does not cover the pricing issue and has provided no rebuttal or answered the question raised by Rahul Gandhi and other opposition leaders.

Modi in a fix

Modi will find it difficult to live down allegations that he compromised the security of India which recently opted for the S-400 missile system from Russia by pruning the previous governments deal of 126 Rafale fighters to a mere 36. The requirement of 126 was projected by the Air Staff and accepted by the previous Congress-led UPA government.

There is no evidence that the IAF agreed for only 36 fighters with China threatening the security of India and aspiring to be Number one global power.

The Modi government has been claiming a cost reduction in the Rafale deal. N Ram the editor of The Hindu has in an article pointed out that administrative costs are added up and what was meant for 126 planes is now spread over 36 planes the deal is 41 percent more costly.

Future

The first Rafale fighter is likely to be handed over to the IAF by the end of this year, nearly four years after Modi personally inked the deal and 15-years after the IAF projected its requirement.

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