The Indian Air Force chief, Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa on Wednesday defended the central government on the controversial Rafale deal adding that ‘no country in the world is facing the kind of grave threat that India is confronted with.’
He said that intentions of adversaries could change overnight and the Air Force needed to match their force level. Air Chief Marshal Dhnoa said that India’s hostile neighbours were not sitting idle and countries like China were modernising its air force significantly.
Speaking at a seminar on ‘IAF’s force structure, 2035’, the air chief said, “By providing the Rafale and S-400, the government is strengthening the Indian Air Force to counter the short falls of our depleting numbers.”
He also justified procurement of only two Rafale jet squadrons, saying there were example of similar purchases.
“What we do not have are the numbers, against a sanctioned strength of 42 squadrons, we are down to 31. Even when we do have 42 squadrons, we will be below the combined numbers of two of our regional adversaries,” the Air Force chief was quoted by news agency ANI.
Dhanoa’s defence comes amidst allegations that the Centre was pressurising the Air Force officers to defend the government over the controversial deal.
Noted activist and Supreme Court Prashant Bhushan had said earlier this week that Indian Air Force officials were being forced to praise the new Rafale fighter aircraft deal signed with France, IANS reported.
“After the expose, the NDA government doesn’t have anything to justify the change in the deal, so now IAF officials are being pressurised to speak in favour of the new deal,” the news agency quoted Bhushan as saying.
The Indian government is facing serious allegations of scam to the tune of over one lakh crore in signing the Rafale deal with the French company Dassault aviation. After Janta Ka Reporter first published the expose in its three-part series, the Congress and other opposition parties such as AAP and Trinamool have been consistently cornering the Narendra Modi government on the alleged scam.
Prime Minister Modi is alleged to have signed the new deal by junking the more India-friendly deal signed by the previous UPA government allegedly to favour his billionaire businessman friend Anil Ambani. Ambani’s newly formed company was allowed to enter joint venture with Dassault Aviation to manufacture the jets in India despite the former having no previous experience in manufacturing defence products.