Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman addresses Rafale deal allegations, Sidhu’s infamous hug

New Delhi: Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday addressed the allegations by her preceding minister AK Antony about the Rafale deal at Indian Women’s Press Corp (IWPC). Additionally, she criticised Navjot Singh for hugging Pakistan’s army chief during Imran Khan’s swearing-in ceremony.

Here are the major highlights from the Defence Minister’s speech:

‘It was UPA that dropped HAL from Rafale deal’

  • “Dassault and HAL could not agree on production terms. As a result, HAL and Rafale could not go together. Doesn’t that say it clearly? Isn’t it obvious that interests of HAL could’ve been taken care of even during that time? Neither HAL or IAF’s interests were taken care of by the then UPA government,” Sitharaman said.
  • “They [UPA government] should’ve made sure that HAL’s offer was appealing enough for Dassault. This entire issue of HAL not being chosen happened during their [UPA] time. Every question of ‘you have!’ should go to them,” she said.
  • AK Antony in the morning had accused Sitharaman of suppressing facts and trying to tarnish the image of HAL both nationally and internationally. Antony, in his press conference, had blamed the government for “gravely compromising” national security in the Rafale fighter jet.

‘Sidhu would have avoided hugging Pakistan Army chief ‘

  • After senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj reprimanded Navjot Singh Sidhu on Monday for hugging Pakistan army chief, Sitharaman in today’s press conference spoke on the same lines and said that his act impacted soldiers back home. She asserted that the Punjab minister could have “avoided it”.
  • “Sidhu has a lot of admirers…somebody of that stature going there and then hugging the chief of the army, an army about which in India we have very clear feelings, it certainly has an impact on soldiers…, it demoralises the people. I wish Sidhu would have avoided it (hug),” she said.
  • Cricketer-turned-politician Sidhu had courted controversy by hugging Pakistan Army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa during his visit to Pakistan for the swearing-in of Imran Khan as Prime Minister. He had claimed that he did so as Bajwa told him that the Pakistan government was working for opening of the Kartarpur corridor for Sikh pilgrims from Indian state of Punjab.

(With inputs from agencies)