The government today termed as “motivated” and “baseless” the controversy over the Rafale deal and asserted that the fighter jets have been bought at better terms.In a written response to a question in the Lok Sabha, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said all the provisions of Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) have been followed and an inter-governmental agreement was signed on September 23, 2016 after the approval of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS). “The allegations are motivated and baseless. The government has bought the Rafale aircraft at better terms,” she said. The question was asked by six MPs, including three from the BJP, BJD member Bhartruhari Mahtab, Samajwadi Party member Tej Pratap Singh Yadav and Shiv Sena’s Rahul Shewale.The Congress had alleged a “huge scam” in the deal to buy 36 Rafale fighter aircraft saying this was done unilaterally without following the DPP, without any inter-governmental agreement and in the absence of the then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. The Congress had also made it an election issue in the Gujarat polls. In response to a question on the number of surgical strikes made by the Army in the last three years, the defence minister did not given any direct answer.Also readA shake up has been given to the defence ministry to speed up acquisitions: Nirmala Sitharaman”Based on specific and credible inputs, Indian Army strikes at terrorists/ infiltrators at the borders from time to time, in order to preserve the unity, integrity and sovereignty of the nation,” she held. In response to another question on whether the government foresees a two-front war at western and northern borders and initiatives taken by the government to deal with situation like Dokalam and proxy war by Pakistan, Sitharaman said the government is fully seized of the security threats and remains prepared to deal with all kinds of security challenges.”Appropriate measures are taken from time to time to maintain/ upgrade the country’s defence preparedness to safeguard the sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of India,” she said, adding that the government regularly reviews the threat perception to secure borders. Replying to another question, her deputy Subhash Bhamre said 103 defence personnel lost their lives in encounters with terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir from 2014-16.On whether military expenditure as a percentage of GDP has reduced over a period of time, Bhamre said the defence budget was 1.54 per cent of the GDP. “Defence expenditure as a percentage of GDP may appear to be decreasing due to increasing trend in the growth of GDP. However, defence expenditure is increasing every year in absolute terms,” Bhamre said.
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