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NDA forgot its fling with Thales

Here's A recap: An HT report in April 2002 said the ministry of defence (under the NDA regime) had entered into a deal with a Thales subsidiary.

india Updated: Mar 22, 2006 01:46 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis

Here's A recap: An HT report in April 2002 said the ministry of defence (under the NDA regime) had entered into a deal with a Thales subsidiary, under investigation by the ministry's own vigilance office. The ministry was prompt with a denial, saying no such contract had been signed but also said the "above noted French firm has not been black listed".

So now, as the BJP-led Opposition attacks the government and the French firm over the Scorpene deal, highly-placed sources in the defence ministry said several contracts had been signed or negotiated with Thales during the NDA regime. "Between 1998 and 2001, the NDA government had either signed or negotiated over 13 contracts with Thales and its subsidiaries," sources said.

On the allegation that the NDA had refused to sign the Scorpene deal because of objections raised by the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), sources said the CVC had only suggested to the ministry that it should sign a 'treaty of integrity' with the contracting firm.

Sources quoted from the CVC's suggestion to the defence ministry (May 7, 2002): "The contracting firm may be asked to sign the integrity pact as recommended by Transparency International, which is already being separately examined by MOD so that the hands of the Government of India are strengthened in case the contracting party indulges in corrupt practices.''

The sources said the integrity pact was never part of the deal during the NDA regime but the UPA government incorporated it.

On the allegation that Finance Minister P. Chidambaram had raised objections to the deal on May 13, 2005, sources said no such letter exists. "The letter bearing the same number and date from the FM deals with the 15th session of the Indo-German Joint Commission on Industrial and Economic cooperation. It has no mention of Scorpene,'' sources said.

Sources said around July 2004, the UPA government reviewed the proposal and considered floating a fresh global 'request for proposal' (RFP). But the government realised that this could delay the project by three to five years, further depleting Indian Navy's submarine force levels.

First Published: Mar 22, 2006 01:46 IST