Rafale Deal: PM Modi's Office conducted "parallel negotiations" with France on the Rafale jet deal
New Delhi: A news report on an internal note of the defence ministry - which recorded its objections to "parallel negotiations" by the Prime Minister's Office into the multi-billion dollar deal for Rafale fighter jets -- triggered a huge political row today. Congress chief Rahul Gandhi said the report by The Hindu established that the PMO was directly involved in the deal and had withheld information from the Supreme Court. In Parliament, as his party demanded that the deal be probed by a Joint Parliamentary Committee, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the Congress was "flogging a dead horse".
Here are the top 10 facts in this big story:
- The note from then defence secretary G Mohan Kumar -- dated November 24, 2015 -- brought to the attention of then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar that the PMO's position was "contradictory to the stand taken by MoD and the negotiating team" and it is "desirable that such discussions be avoided by the PMO as it undermines our negotiating position seriously".
- "We may advise PMO that any Officers who are not part of the Indian Negotiating Team may refrain from having parallel parlays with the officers of the French Government," the note read. "In case the PMO is not confident about the outcome of negotiations being carried out by the MoD, a revised modality of negotiations to be led by PMO at appropriate level may be adopted," it added.
- Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the news report was "selective" and "slanderous" and drew attention to the handwritten remarks of her predecessor at the bottom of the note -- a detail not included in the news report. "Every question on Rafale has been answered thoroughly and transparently... not just here in the House, but also in court," she said.
- In his remarks, Manohar Parrikar said the PMO and the French President's Office were "monitoring the progress of the issue" as it was an outcome of a summit meeting". The concerns expressed by the defence secretary G Mohan Kumar, "appears to be an over-reaction", the minister wrote.
- G Mohan Kumar today said the note had nothing to do with the pricing of the Rafale jets, which was the primary concern of the Congress. "Negotiations are not just for pricing but other things also. It was about sovereign guarantees and general terms and conditions,"he was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
- Ms Sitharaman's response triggered more questions from the Congress, which insisted that Mr Parrikar's comments were further evidence that the PM's Office was interfering in the deal. "Nirmala ji, stop pretending like you don't know that negotiating directly with the French govt is not 'supervision", but interference which violates DAC guidelines as illustrated by the note written by your own ministry," the Congress tweeted.
- Earlier today, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, in a press conference said the report in The Hindu establishes what his party has been saying. Addressing the armed forces personnel, he said, "You fight for us, you die for us... you must know this, that it is clear that PM Modi gave 30,000 crore of your money to Anil Ambani".
- Yesterday, PM Modi had accused the Congress of being "insensitive" towards the armed forces. "The Army has seen the days when the officers did not even have bullet-proof jackets" he said and questioned how the Congress can "say lies on Rafale with such confidence".
- Last year, the government had told the Supreme Court that the PM's Office had no role in the negotiations for Rafale, which was carried out by a seven-member team. "The government kept all this from the Supreme Court. It can be treated as contempt of court. They were not told that PMO was holding parallel negotiations," N Ram, the editor of The Hindu, told NDTV.
- The Congress contends that the government finalised an overpriced deal for 36 Rafale fighter jets at an inflated price to benefit Anil Ambani, whose rookie defence firm was recommended as an offset partner for Dassault, the company manufacturing the aircraft. Both Dassault and the government have denied the Congress allegations.
Disclaimer: NDTV has been sued for 10,000 crores by Anil Ambani's Reliance Group for its coverage of the Rafale deal