New Delhi: A joint secretary in charge of acquiring new weapon systems for the Indian Air Force (IAF) was acting very unreasonably in the negotiations as he had benchmarked the price of 36 Rafale aircraft at Rs 7,400 crore (€ 1 billion) less than the cost of 18 planes that were to be acquired in fly-away condition by the Congress-led UPA government under its failed deal for 126 similar fighter jets.

The joint secretary and acquisition manager (air) was first heading the contract negotiations committee (CNC) for the 126 Rafales in 2014. He continued to do so until 2015 when the deal was scrapped. Later on, he was made a part of the CNC headed by the IAF deputy chief, too.

"In the CNC, he, along with a couple of other officers, benchmarked the cost of 36 Rafales at € 5 billion (Rs 37,000 crore at the rate of € 1 = Rs 74) whereas the CNC headed by him had benchmarked the cost of 18 Rafale planes at € 6 billion (Rs 44,400 crore) citing some unreasonable logic. That is why it had to be overruled by both the CNC and his boss in the director general (acquisition)," top government sources told MyNation.

The officials issued this clarification amid reports in a section of the media suggesting that in September 2016, a senior officer of the ministry of defence, who had been part of the CNC, had raised questions about the deal’s benchmark price and put his objections on record,

Sources in the government said the Prime Minister had issued directions for getting a better deal from France than what the Congress government had been negotiating for in its deal for 126 planes.

On the issue being examined by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), sources said the officials concerned had already answered the objections raised by the audit agency on these issues.

The deal for 36 Rafale aircraft is being audited by the CAG and it is likely to present its report to Parliament during the forthcoming winter session.