Rafale deal not govt-to-govt pact, says Kapil Sibal

The Congress on Wednesday alleged that the deal is not a “government-to-government” pact between India and France as is being suggested by the government.

It said the Centre should not have signed the contract with Dassault alleging that it was a “non-complaint” vendor as it had not given assurances on aircraft quality and on man-hours required for manufacture of the jets.

The Congress, however, did not ask the government to scrap the contract.

Addressing a press conference, senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal claimed France has never done a government-to-government contract on defence. “This is not a government to government contract. Dassault should make a public statement if they ever had a Government to Government contract prior to this. In fact, there is no such procedure in France,” he said.

“In this case… the people who negotiated the deal were Dassault representatives along with Eric Trappier himself…. That is on the side of Dassault and on the Indian side Ministry of Defence and Air Force officials negotiated the deal. The only thing that happened was that the Government of France gave a confirmation letter. The negotiations were done by Dassault. How could it be a Government to Government contract?” he asked.

Sibal claimed Dassault was a non-compliant vendor.

“In the bid that Dassault gave, it provided the number of hours to be taken for manufacture of 108 aircraft…. The HAL had opposed that figure and said the man hours that you are claiming is wrong…. It had said it will take almost three times the number of man-hours. Actually the exact is 2.74. Dassault was asked to back its claim by providing an affidavit or an undertaking. Dassault refused to give either the affidavit or the undertaking and under Government of India procedures Dassault became non-complaint.

“Had they given the total number of hours, it would have been L-2. Therefore, they did not give that affidavit. Once it became non-compliant, Government of India cannot have any contract with Dassault,” he said.

He said the government had also asked Dassault to take “full responsibility for the production, quality and performance of the 108 aircraft” but it flatly refused.

Source: Indian Express

Modi Compromised National Security, Hiked Prices of Rafale Jet Deal to Favor Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence: Congress

The Congress on Thursday alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had enhanced and hiked the benchmark price for for the Rafale fighter jet deal from 5.2 billion Euros to 8.2 billion Euros and discarded objections by one of his own ministries on the sovereign guarantee issue.

It said the “entire spectrum of deception” on the deal “lies at the doorstep of the Prime Minister”, The Indian Express claimed in a report.

The CPI(M), too, hit out at the government demanding a Supreme Court-monitored SIT probe into the deal.

The Congress communication department head Randeep Surjewala claimed that the negotiating team had “a serious dispute” on the benchmark price, which was referred to the then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.

Manohar Parrikar refused to hike prices of Rafale

“Parrikar as also the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) headed by the Defence Minister and the chiefs of the three armed forces also didn’t agree and could not decide on the higher benchmark price of € 8.2 Billion. So DAC referred it to Cabinet Committee on Security (CSS) headed by the Prime Minister. PM Modi as the head of the CCS accepted the higher benchmark price without any negotiations or inquiry. Why did the Prime Minister set a higher benchmark price,” Sujrewala asked.

The Law Ministry had on December 9, 2015 “flagged the issue of “No Bank Guarantee/ Sovereign Guarantee” by the French Government and noted the concern that the contract involves huge payouts from the public exchequer without actual delivery in the form of advance payments.

The then Defence Minister Parikkar, Surjewala claimed, had in March 2016 refused to “opine of accepting the Letter of Comfort in lieu of bank-French government guarantee. The Air Acquisition Wing of the Defence Ministry, on the other hand, had put up a note in August of that year stating that “Bank Guarantees may be insisted from French side as required under our procedure and Indian side may bear the Bank Guarantee charges.”

Modi Waved Off Bank Guarantee

He said the Law Ministry reiterated its view and conveyed it again to the Defence Ministry on August 24, but the “very next day, PM Modi as head of the CCS accepted the ‘Letter of Comfort’ and waived off the condition of ‘Bank Guarantee/French Government Sovereign Guarantee’.”

“Why did PM Modi compromise national interests by waiving the Bank Guarantee/French Government’s Sovereign Guarantee’ in violation of Defence Procurement Procedure?” he asked. The Congress has alleged that all this was done only to favour one company Reliance Defence which is headed by Anil Ambani and levelled charges of crony capitalism on the BJP Central Govt.

On Wednesday, Attorney General K K Venugopal had told the Supreme Court no “sovereign guarantee” was given by the French government but it had issued a “letter of comfort” that was good enough to be “governmental guarantee”, according to a report in The Hindu.

Defence Minister Parrikar refused to accept Letter of Comfort

Sujrewala also claimed that Mr. Parrikar had refused to accept the “letter of comfort” in place of a sovereign/bank guarantee and cited an August 18, 2016 note in which the Air Acquisition wing of the Defence Ministry stated, “Bank Guarantees may be insisted from French side as required under our procedure and Indian side may bear the Bank Guarantee charges”.

CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury said the government’s own admission in the Supreme Court that there is no sovereign guarantee from the French government but only a letter of comfort which is not legally enforceable to ensure the delivery of this high-value contract was sensational.

with inputs from The Hindu & Indian Express

Kamal Haasan demands probe into Rafale deal?

Actor-turned politician Kamal Haasan has said that an investigation should be carried out to answer questions that are being raised over the Rafale deal.

Speaking to media persons on Friday, Haasan said that at a time when suspicions are being raised against the central government’s conduct, the best way out is to order an investigation that will answer all questions.

“There are a lot of allegations and suspicions [about the Rafale deal]. An investigation must be ordered. If one is innocent, there is nothing to fear,” he said.

The Modi government is facing criticism from the Opposition over alleged irregularities in the Rafale deal with French defence manufacturing giant Dassault Aviation.

The Congress has been accusing the central government of nepotism and said that it gave special preference to Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence over other competitors for an offset contract with Dassault. The second criticism is about the alleged price escalation of the Rafale fighter jets from the UPA-era deal.

The chief of the Makkal Needhi Mayam also attacked the Bharatiya Janata Party for the rise in fuel prices. Haasan said the continuous rise in fuel prices is resulting in the hike in prices of other commodities too.

“The central government is more responsible for this [than the state government]. When the BJP was in the Opposition, the party had protested against hike in fuel prices. Why is not doing anything now?” he asked.

Source: India Today

French President Emmanuel Macron Didn’t Contradict Hollande’s Claim On Rafale Deal: Congress

NEW DELHI: Senior Congress leader Jaipal Reddy Thursday alleged French President Emmanuel Macron did not contradict Francois Hollande’s claim on Rafale deal which was tantamount to the confirmation of his predecessor’s claim.

Noting that the “Rafale scam has begin to stink and the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government has begin to sink”, Mr Reddy said India has had a very good relationship with France and “when a former French president says something, this country needs to sit up and take notice”.

Mr Reddy claimed the prime minister is getting caught or sandwiched between international revelations and internal disclosures.

He alleged Anil Ambani’s company was taken as an offset partner because of the pressure from Government of India and it was so intense that the French authorities were left with no choice.

“It is for the first time that the present French president Macron while answering a specific question avoided the question. He simply said I was not incharge at that time. In other words, he did not contradict the version of former French president Hollande,” he claimed.

“The point we would like to highlight is this consistent non-contradiction by the current French authorities which is absolutely tantamount to confirmation on the facts mentioned by the former president,” he claimed.

“The non-contraction by the current president of France is equivalent to an international revelation,” he added.

Mr Reddy said PM Modi owed an explanation to the nation about the statement made by the former president of France on Mr Ambani’s company.

Source: PTI

Shatrughan Sinha Appeals To PM Narendra Modi On Rafale Deal: “Sir Ji, Break Your Silence”

NEW DELHI: For the second time in less than a week, BJP parliamentarian Shatrughan Sinha has asked the government to clear the air on the multi-million dollar Rafale fighter jet deal, which has been caught in a political slugfest. Today, in a tweet, Mr Sinha asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to break his silence and contradict former French president Francois Hollande, who had dropped a bombshell last week on the deal for the 36 Rafale jets.

“Sir ji! Please break your silence and contradict former French President Hollande (since both of you were present in meeting)….otherwise people will think he is speaking the truth,” Shatrughan Sinha, who has been consistently critical of his party’s government, tweeted.

Last week, a French publication had quoted Mr Hollande as saying that the Indian government had proposed Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence as the offset partner for the Rs. 58,000 crore Rafale deal.

Mr Hollande’s remarks have been denied by both the French government and Dassault, the maker of the Rafale jets.

The opposition has been alleging that PM Modi sealed the deal without any transparency and how it benefitted Anil Ambani. The Anil Ambani-led group is manufacturing aerospace components as part of the offset component of the Rafale deal. The clause requires Rafale manufacturer Dassault to ensure that business worth around Rs. 30,000 crores is generated for the Indian defence system. Reliance Defence is not making components for the Rafales ordered by India but is building assemblies for Dassault business jets.

On Saturday, Mr Sinha, 72, had asked the government to come clean on the fighter jet deal.

“The statement has come from a person who was not only a former France president but the one under whom the (Rafale) deal was sealed. Some questions have arisen from it, which need to be answered,” Mr Sinha, the lawmaker from Bihar’s Patna Sahib seat, had said in the presence of Aam Aadmi Party leader Sanjay Singh.

“People are questioning why an experienced company like HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited) was set aside and a new company (Reliance Defence) got the opportunity (for offset contract under the deal),” the actor-turned-politician had added.

The deal to buy Rafale fighters was signed by the NDA government with France in 2016 after the previous Congress government’s negotiations were scrapped. The Congress-led UPA’s plan was to buy 18 off-the-shelf jets from France’s Dassault Aviation, with 108 others being assembled in India by the HAL in Bengaluru. But according to the new deal, India would buy 36 ready-to-fly Rafale jets.

Mr Sinha’s comments were criticized by fellow party parliamentarian RK Sinha on Monday, who accused him of siding with opposition leaders like Congress president Rahul Gandhi and Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Yadav.

“You should first decide where you stand. With Modi or against Modi. The people of the country will settle the account accordingly,” RK Sinha had said on his Facebook page.

Mr Sinha, called Shotgun for his acerbic comments that consistently attack his own party, has had an uneasy relationship with the BJP for a few years and often cribs that the party, under PM Modi and Amit Shah, had relegated him to the spectator seats in Bihar.

Source: NDTV

Rafale deal: NCP says Pawar hasn’t given any clean chit to Modi, demands JPC probe

Mumbai, Sep 27: The NCP said Thursday that its chief Sharad Pawar has not given any clean chit to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Rafale issue, after the opposition leader’s remarks that “people have no doubts” over the prime minister’s intentions in the deal.

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) spokesperson Nawab Malik also reiterated the party’s demands that the central government disclose the price of the fighter jets and a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe the matter.

In an interview to a Marathi news channel, Pawar had said that he didn’t think that people have doubts about Modi’s intentions in the Rafale deal.

Pawar, a former Defence Minister, had also said that the Opposition’s demand to share technical details relating to the fighter jets “made no sense”. He, however, said there was no harm for the government to disclose prices of the aircraft.

Malik said Thursday that the media reports over Pawar’s statement are “confusing and misleading”.

“He (Pawar) has not made any statement defending Modi nor has he given any clean chit (in the Rafale deal matter),” the NCP leader said.

Malik said what Pawar meant was that people initially didn’t have doubts about the prime minister.

“What Pawar saheb said was that the way the matter is being hushed up (by the government) and attention of people from the issue is being diverted, the doubt is deepening,” Malik said.

In his interview, Pawar had also said that the way Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented the government’s side led to confusion in the minds of people.

Quoting Pawar, Malik said the government should share information about escalation of the fighter jets price.

“The way the BJP had insisted on forming a JPC in the Bofors deal in the 1980s, it should now allow formation of such a committee in connection with the Rafale issue too,” Malik demanded.

His remarks came even as BJP chief Amit Shah lauded Sharad Pawar’s comments and asked Congress president Rahul Gandhi to believe his own ally who has put “national interests above party politics”.

“I thank Sharad Pawar, a former Defence Minister and veteran MP, for placing national interests above party politics and speaking the truth. Dear Rahul Gandhi, you would be wiser by believing your own ally and a leader of Pawar Saheb’s stature,” Shah tweeted.

He tagged the Congress president in his tweet which also attached a news story on Pawar’s comments .

Meanwhile, Malik said NCP workers will observe a “maun vrat” (vow of silence) for three hours on the occasion of the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi on October 2.

The Congress has launched an offensive against the BJP government over the Rafale deal with France, alleging corruption and violation of rules.

The opposition party has accused the government of causing loss to the public exchequer and endangering national security by bypassing state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) in favour of some businessman “friends” for awarding the offset contract.

The government as denied the charges.

Source: PTI

AAP leader Sanjay Singh sends legal notice to Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman over Rafale deal

Senior Aam Aadmi Party leader Sanjay Singh said Tuesday he had sent a legal notice to Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman over alleged irregularities in the Rafale deal.

In the notice, the AAP leader demanded that the Rafale deal be scrapped and Dassault Reliance Aerospace be barred from handling or manufacturing Rafale fighter jets. He also sought a probe by a Supreme Court-monitored special investigation team (SIT).

“My client (Singh) is constrained to issue this legal notice in the subject matter (Rafale Deal) due to your covert actions and deeds with regard to the pricing and induction of strategic partner of a company with zero credentials much to the detriment to the security of the nation,” the notice, sent to Sitharaman by Singh’s lawyers, read.

He threatened to approach the court if the defence minister failed to heed to his demands in the next three days. A legal notice is a precursor to a case being filed in a court.

Commenting on the issue, Singh said, “The Rafale deal involves a ‘mahaghotala’ (mega scam) of Rs 36,000 crore. When I raised the issue in the Parliament, along with other UPA MPs, Union Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre gave contradictory replies.”

“Our allegations have been proved by French former president (Francois) Hollande’s statement. I also asked the government why the 78-year-old HAL was denied manufacturing of the planes, while a 12-day-old Reliance company was given (the contract). No reply has been given by the government,” Singh told reporters.

The Rafale controversy took a new turn last week after Hollande, who was the French president when the Rs 58,000-crore deal was announced, was quoted as saying by French publication Mediapart that France was given “no choice” on the selection of the Indian partner for Dassault and the Indian government had proposed the name of Reliance as the offset partner for the aerospace giant.

Modi had announced the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft after holding talks with Hollande on April 10, 2015, in Paris.

Source/Credits: PTI

Rahul Gandhi claims more facts on Rafale deal will be revealed soon

Congress president Rahul Gandhi said more facts on the Rafale fighter deal and the Vijay Mallya row will be out soon as he used his home turf Tuesday to attack Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

This is the beginning, he told reporters on the last day of the two-day trip to his Amethi Lok Sabha constituency.

He said there will be more on the Rafale deal, and on the people who were involved with the fugitive liquor baron Vijay Mallya.

The truth will be before you and you can judge, he said.

Earlier, the Congress chief took part in a meeting of the district vigilance and monitoring committee.

He said the deal for 36 French fighter aircraft signed by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government had harmed the interests of the youth, reminding them that a unit of the public sector HAL existed in Amethi as well.

The Congress has been attacking the Modi government over an offset agreement signed by Rafale manufacturer Dassault with Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group.

The party has claimed that the deal would have gone to HAL under the earlier negotiations being carried out by its own government.

Reliance has rejected the charge that the current government was involved in any way in its commercial deal with the French company.

Source/Credits: PTI

Rafale Deal: Technical HODs at Dassault Aviation claim Reliance Defence was never the first choice, decision to drop HAL was taken by CEO Eric Trappier at the last minute

In complete contradiction to what an official press statement from the French aviation giant Dassault Aviation, manufacturers of the Rafale fighter aircraft say, two top technical heads at Dassault Aviation (DA) have claimed in an exclusive interview with IndiaScoops.com, that the entire technical staff team at Dassault Aviation were unhappy with the move to drop the Indian PSU Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) and go ahead with Reliance Defence Ltd.

Speaking to IndiaScoops.com on phone, the two internal experts pointed out that there was a discussion between officials at DA and several emails were exchanged over a period of 7-8 days. The entire technical team wanted to work with HAL, but the decision was overruled by the top DA management headed by CEO Eric Trappier at the last minute.

Also Read: GOI told us take Reliance or No Deal: Former top Hollande aide stands by ex-President’s statements on Rafale

“We were sure we would be working with HAL and not any other Indian company. At least a 100 emails went to and fro from different departments at DA on the issue. At the last minute, we were informed that HAL was dropped and a new Indian company with whom we had never worked before and which had no expertise in manufacturing fighter aircraft was selected for the job. The entire technical team and our team heads and HODs were shocked. It was a bolt from the blue. But we had to follow instructions. At the end of the day, it’s profitability for the company that matters and if the top management decided to work with Reliance Defence, we had to toe the line. We all knew that the new company had no expertise, no experience. Internally, this issue was discussed among the technical HODs on email and several emails went to and fro. But it was CEO Eric Trappier and a couple of other officials’ at DA who took the decision to go with Reliance Defence,” the officials told IndiaScoops.com.

The decision to drop HAL and go with Reliance Defence Ltd was that of CEO Eric Trappier and two others who mysteriously refused to listen to any advice of the departmental HODs and selected Reliance on the grounds that the deal would be scrapped, they told IndiaScoops.com in an exclusive interview.

“We were told the Indian government would have scrapped the deal if Reliance was not taken on board. (Read Here) Scrapping the deal would mean losses for the company and hence the top management headed by CEO Eric Trappier  took the decision to work with Reliance, even though the in-house technical HODs had vetoed working with a new company having no experience and expertise – this was the official explanation given to the team. The technical HODs told the Dassault Aviation top management that handing over the contract to a new company would compromise and jeopardize the technology and equipment as well as be hazardous for the over-all image of DA as a world-class manufacturer of fighter aircraft. This has been put in writing on several emails, but the final decision by CEO Eric Trappier and two others  was in favor of Reliance Defence,” they told IndiaScoops.com.

IndiaScoops.com has with held the names of the officials concerned to protect their identity as “confidential sources” primarily as they are not authorized by DA to speak to the media, given the fact they head vital technical teams at DA and revealing their identity would violate their employment contracts and also prevent us from accessing further information.

Dassault, one of the world’s most established and experienced defence manufacturers, picked Anil Ambani’s debt-ridden firm as a partner in India, “because it was registered with the MCA (Ministry of Corporate Affairs) and had land in Nagpur which provided access to the runway,” said top sources at the French firm, in a damage control move, speaking to NDTV on the condition of anonymity.

As justification, those reasons are unlikely to tamp down the opposition’s allegations that Anil Ambani benefited from brazen crony capitalism in a massive $8.6 billion deal for India’s purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France, a deal that was negotiated personally and then announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2016 during a visit to Paris, reports NDTV.

According to an Economic Times (ET) report, the French government has said it was in no manner involved in the choice of Indian industrial partners for the multi-billion dollar Rafale fighter jet deal as former French president Francois Hollande’s reported comments that New Delhi proposed Reliance Defence as the Indian partner for the contract escalated the political row over it.

While the French government said French companies have the full freedom to select Indian firms for the deal, Dassault Aviation, the makers of Rafale, said it had made the decision to partner with Reliance Defence Ltd, reported ET.

Both the French government and French aerospace company Dassault issued separate and varying statements following a French media report which quoted Hollande as saying that the Indian government proposed Reliance Defence as the partner for French aerospace giant in the Rs 58,000 crore Rafale deal and France did not have a choice.

The sensational comments quoted to Hollande by French publication ‘Mediapart’ gave a new twist to the controversy as the Indian government has been maintaining it was not officially aware of whom the Dassault Aviation has selected as its Indian partner to fulfill offset obligations of the deal.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced the procurement of a batch of 36 Rafale jets after holding talks with then French President Hollande on April 10, 2015 in Paris.

“The French government is in no manner involved in the choice of Indian industrial partners who have been, are being, or will be selected by French companies,” the French government said in its statement as quoted by ET.

NDTV reported that Hollande’s office said he stood by his earlier remarks and statements made to Mediapart.

Hollande’s comments drew sharp reactions from the opposition parties in India, which have been accusing the government of massive irregularities in the deal and benefiting Reliance Defence Ltd (RDL) despite not having any experience in the aerospace sector.

According to a report in The Hindu, the former French President Francois Hollande claimed that the Indian government suggested industrialist Anil Ambani’s company as the offset partner for the €7.87 billion deal to purchase 36 Rafale fighter jets. Hollande was the French President at the time the deal was signed in 2015.

He told a French news outlet, Mediapart.fr, on Friday that his government didn’t have “a choice” in the selection of Reliance Defence, the company owned by Anil Ambani.

“It is the Indian government which has proposed this service group and it is Dassault that has negotiated with Ambani. We didn’t have a choice, we took the interlocutor that was given to us,” he was quoted as saying.

Repeated assertions
His comments fly in the face of repeated assertions made at the highest level of the Indian government that it was Dassault Aviation (DA) that selected Reliance Defence as its offset partner. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said “no offset contract has been signed so far” and an agreement between two companies did not require the permission of the government.

“As per the applicable guidelines, DA is free to select the Indian offset Partners and provide their details at the time of seeking offset credits, or one-year prior to the discharge of offset obligation,” the government had stated.

Responding to Hollande’s comments, the Defence Ministry tweeted that the statement was being “verified.” “It is reiterated that neither [the] Government of India nor [the] French Government had any say in the commercial decision,” the Ministry said in a tweet.

In September 2016, India and France signed a €7.87 bn agreement for 36 Rafale jets in fly-away condition. The deal includes aircraft, spares, weapons, maintenance and performance guarantee for five years. The deal has a 50% offset clause to be executed by DA and its partners. Under this, DA and Reliance Defence have set up a joint venture to manufacture aerospace components.

In a recent interview Ms. Sitharaman denied any government role in the choice of offset partner in the Rafale deal.

She had said, “Isn’t that a decision of a commercial enterprise to take on its own? I have nothing to do with it. I have not prompted them, not led them, not told them, not instructed them. I have not done any match-making whatsoever.”

The Reliance Group had stated that it got the offset contract from DA and did not receive any contract from the Defence Ministry till date.

with inputs from The Hindu and The Economic Times