How Mulayam Singh Yadav 'piloted' Sukhoi into IAF : The Tribune India

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How Mulayam Singh Yadav 'piloted' Sukhoi into IAF

Mulayam Singh, put aside his years of anti-Congress and anti-BJP stance, and took upon himself to not let it turn it into another Bofors-like controversy

How Mulayam Singh Yadav 'piloted' Sukhoi into IAF


Tribune News Service

Ajay Banerjee

New Delhi, October 11

The Cold War (1945-1991) had just ended. India, was looking for a fighter jet to add muscle to the Indian Air Force fleet.

Russian President Boris Yeltsin, in 1994, offered the Sukhoi-30 that was test flown in 1989 and first produced only in 1996 after India agreed to buy it. The Government led by PV Narasimha Rao (PM June 1991–May 1996) agreed to some very unusual terms.

The General Election had been announced, the model code of conduct was enforced, when Rao decided in early part of 1996.

Rao, also held the portfolio of Defence Minister, and okayed for paying a $ 350 million advance to the Russian manufacturers, Sukhoi Aviation Corporation, all without signing a contract or the IAF pilots getting to test fly the plane.

The advance was at the request of Boris Yeltsin as Russia was facing an economic crisis. Former IAS officer and Private Secretary to Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Shakti Sinha recounts the issue of the advance in his book “Vajpayee — The Years That Changed India”.

“The advance for the military aircraft had initially seemed like a scam. But Vajpayee wanted to know more and it transpired that the advance was needed to keep the manufacturing unit ( in Russia) afloat”.

Rao and the Congress was voted out of power in 1996. Vajpayee was sworn in Prime Minister, his government lasted just 13 days – May 16- June 1, 1996 and had no time to take a call on the Sukhoi deal.

HD Deva Gowda followed Vajpayee as Prime Minister and Mulayam Singh Yadav took over as Defence Minister on June 1, 1996, was in the saddle till March 19, 1998.

Mulayam Singh, put aside his years of anti-congress and anti-BJP stance, and took upon himself to not let it turn it into another Bofors-like controversy.

Mulayam built a consensus, he arranged a briefing for senior opposition leaders including Vajpayee and BJP member Jaswant Singh (a former Army officer and later Defence Minister). The circumstances of the contract and needs of the IAF were explained. Russia was then the sole major supplier of weapons, any step to stop the Sukhoi -deal would have been disastrous.

On November 30 1996 – some eight-ten months after Rao okayed the advance to Russia – the Ministry of Defence inked a deal with the Russians for ‘development and production’ of eight Sukhoi-30Ks and 32 Sukhoi-30MKIs for the Indian Air Force.

Weeks after that Mulayam Singh informed the Parliament about the successful Sukhoi deal, Opposition benches complimented him.

By July 1997, all eight Su-30Ks were delivered at the IAF base at Lohegaon, Pune. Three years later the contract was signed to licence produce the Sukhoi-30 MKI in India. India has some 265 of the jets in service. The latest upgrade to the jet includes the ability to fire a 500 kms range BrahMos Missile.

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#indian air force #mulayam singh yadav #Russia


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