Congress questions omission of defence in budget speech

New Delhi, March 2 (IANS) Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad on Wednesday questioned the omission of the mention of the budgetary allocation for the defence ministry in Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s general budget speech.

“For the first time, there was no mention of the defence budget. Is it so that we do not need defence budget in the National Democratic Alliance’s rule? It is a serious issue,” the leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha said during a debate in the upper house on the president’s speech.

He also questioned the government’s decision to cancel the ongoing negotiations with France on buying 126 Rafale fighter jets, replacing it with 36 jets in flyaway condition.

Azad said this would hurt the flagship ‘Make in India’ programme of the Narendra Modi government.

“France was the lowest bidder in the (Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft) deal. The biggest thing is the technology transfer component. In the deal, 18 (Rafale) jets were to be bought off the shelf and 108 were to be made by HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited). This is called ‘Make in India’,” Azad said.

“Making toys will not boost ‘Make in India’. Making Rafale jets in India would have made the country proud,” he said.

The Congress leader said that ever since the NDA government had come to power at the Centre in May 2014, ceasefire violations on the international border and terror attacks have intensified.

Questioning the government’s policy on Pakistan, he said: “When we (The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance) were in power, our dialogues with Pakistan were bad; and now when they (NDA) are doing it, it’s supposed to be very good.”

“Pakistan is neither your friend nor mine. Is it so that those beheaded then were beheaded and those dying now are pumpkins and potatoes? Why are you going to attend weddings there?” he said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had stopped over in Pakistan on his way back from Afghanistan, and met his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif amid a wedding in his family.

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