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Saturday, Nov 16, 2019

‘In black and white’: Rahul Gandhi cites MoD document on PM role in Rafale

Congress president Rahul Gandhi, cited a defence ministry note published by The Hindu newspaper, that the Defence Ministry had complained about the PMO carrying out parallel negotiations with the French side.

india Updated: Feb 08, 2019 11:56 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Friday attacked the Narendra Modi government over the controversial Rafale deal.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Friday attacked the Narendra Modi government over the controversial Rafale deal.(Mohd Zakir/HT file photo)
         

Congress president Rahul Gandhi stepped up his attack on the Narendra Modi government over Rafale deal on Friday following a news report claiming that the defence ministry objected to “parallel parleys” by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) with the French authorities. Gandhi said the news report “makes it crystal clear that the Prime Minister was conducting parallel negotiations” with the French on Rafale deal.

“We have been saying this for more than a year that the prime minister is directly involved in the Rafale scam…It is absolutely black and white that the prime minister himself was carrying a parallel negotiation with the French,” Gandhi said at a press conference in New Delhi.

 

A report published by The Hindu claimed that “the French side took advantage of parallel parleys by the PMO that weakened Indian team’s position” in negotiating the Rafale deal with France.

Also Watch | ‘PM was conducting parallel negotiations on Rafale’: Rahul Gandhi

 

Gandhi targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi directly accusing him of “stealing Rs 30,000 crore…to give it his friend Anil Ambani.” He said, “It is a corporate warfare and the Prime Minister is representing Anil Ambani.”

“The government has lied to the Supreme Court...This means that the entire judgment is under question now,” he said. Gandhi has been attacking PM Modi over Rafale deal alleging “he is personally involved in corruption” in the defence deal.

At a convention of the minority department of the Congress party on Thursday, Gandhi challenged PM Modi to a debate over Rafale deal. “I say to BJP leaders... make Narendra Modi stand with me on stage for five minutes and debate on national security, Rafale,” the Congress president said.

The newspaper report cited a November 24, 2015 note of the defence ministry, which said that parallel discussions by the PMO “weakened the negotiating position of the MoD and Indian Negotiating Team.”

The note further stated, according to the report and reiterated by the Congress president in his press conference, “We may advise the PMO that any officers, who are not part of the Indian Negotiating Team may refrain from having parallel parlays (parleys) with the officers of the French government.”

The defence ministry had, the paper reported, also stated that ““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 in the case.”

Meanwhile, the then defence secretary G Mohan Kumar has said that the dissent note of the defence ministry had “nothing to do with the price” of Rafale deal. News agency ANI quoted him as saying, “It (MoD dissent note on Rafale negotiations) had nothing to do with price. It was about sovereign guarantees and general terms and conditions.”

“Whatever has been brought out (recent media report on Rafale deal by the Hindu) has nothing to do with pricing,” said Kumar.

The fresh attack from the Congress president comes a day after PM Modi strongly defended the Rafale deal during his reply to the debate on the Motion of Thanks to the President’s address in the Lok Sabha. Dismissing the Congress’s charge, PM Modi said, “All accusations on Rafale deal have been answered by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. The Supreme Court has already studied all aspects of it.”

He also said, “The Congress does not want our air force to be powerful. I am levelling a serious allegation. Who are they batting for?”

The 7.87 billion euro Rafale deal was signed between India and France in 2016 for the purchase of 36 fighter jets.

The report in the paper quoted from the defence ministry note saying that the MoD came to its notice after General Stephen Reb, the head of the French Negotiating Team wrote a letter to on October 23, 2015. The letter “made mention of a telephonic conversation between Shri Jawed Ashraf, Joint Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office and Mr. Luis Vassy, Diplomatic Adviser to the French Minister of Defence, which took place on 20.10.2015.”

The government, on its part, has denied any irregularities in the Rafale deal that was signed as an inter-governmental agreement between the two countries. Under the agreement, French defence manufacturer, Dassault Aviation will supply 36 Rafale fighter jets to Indian Air Force in phased manner.