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

NY Times takes up ‘Fishy’ Rafale deal, says Modi’s image as incorruptible destroyed, predicts a “tough one” for Modi in 2019 polls

The article, titled “With ‘Fishy’ Jet Deal, India’s Opposition Finally Lands a Blow on Modi, says that the deal has caused a great deal of damage to Modi’s incorruptible image.

America’s top newspaper The New York Times has called the Rafale deal “fishy” in a recently published article.Stating that the deal has finally given a chance to the main opposition party, the Congress, to land a blow on PM Modi, the newspaper said that for the first time in last four years, the opposition parties have been able to “build a damaging narrative and land a solid punch” on Modi.

“For several years, Indian politics have been dominated by Mr Modi’s party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, which has grown accustomed to pushing around its rivals,” said the article, published on October 6.It added, “But for the first time in a long time, the opposition, by building a damaging narrative around this arms deal, has landed a solid punch, and is hoping to keep the pressure on Mr Modi and his party ahead of next year’s general election.”

Taking note of accusations being leveled by Congress, the article went on to say, “Congress Party officials have dominated headlines and social media with their accusations that Mr. Modi inflated the price of the aircraft, estimated to cost $8.7 billion, and brought in a trusted ally on the deal so his political party could get something back in return.”

The article, titled “With ‘Fishy’ Jet Deal, India’s Opposition Finally Lands a Blow on Modi, further says that the deal has caused a great deal of damage to Modi’s uncorruptible image. Quoting Congress spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill, the newspaper termed the deal as “fishy.”

Hailing the Rafale deal “a new spring in the step” for the Congress, the newspaper predicted that the Lok Sabha election in 2019 is going to be a tough one for Modi.

Source: National Herald

 

Even Before Bhushan, Sinha and Shourie Could Begin Their PC, Media Houses and Editors Discreetly ‘Told’ to Prominently Incorporate Govt’s Views on Rafale Scam

Even before former cabinet ministers in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, Arun Shourie and Yashwant Sinha, along with Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan could begin their Press Conference (PC) at the Delhi Press Club on Wednesday, regarding the Rafale Jet Fighter deal, senior I&B and PMO officials were furiously working their phones.

IndiaScoops.com has learnt that government officials and BJP spokespersons including a PR agency phoned several ‘friendly’ editors of newspapers and news TV channels requesting them to either boycott the PC or relegate it’s coverage to the inner pages and non-peak time TV telecast.

The Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group PR team was also on its toes, trying to find out which correspondents were attending the event.

IndiaScoops.com  spoke to five senior editors – three from national dailies and two from mainline news channels who admitted off the record that they got ‘how are you’ calls from the I&B Ministry and the PMO inquiring if they were covering the PC called by the trio.

Other editors from pro-BJP outlets refused to speak to IndiaScoops.com, or simply banged down the phone when queried on the subject, but their impulsive curtness was an indication of their indignation.

Two editors told IndiaScoops.com that they were asked as to which reporter or correspondent was covering the event, while others were indirectly advised and reminded to prominently feature the government view in their reportage of the PC.

According to a report in the Indian Express at a press meet, Shourie, Sinha and Bhushan said public sector unit Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, which was part of the original negotiations, was pushed out and a newly-minted company, Reliance Defence Ltd, which had zero experience in defence manufacturing bagged an offset contract. They said such an agreement between Reliance Defence and Dassault Aviation, which makes Rafale jets, should have come after governmental approval.

Sinha said Bofors “pales into insignificance” when compared to this “scam”. They said statements of then foreign secretary S Jaishankar and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar suggest that none of them were aware of the new deal to buy 36 jets, against 126 aircraft as per a Request for Proposal issued in 2007, for which Dassault had been selected as it was the lowest bidder, reports the Indian Express.

“Nobody in the Air Force or the defence ministry was aware” of the reduction, Bhushan told media persons at the PC.

They also said there were no additional add-ons as per Indian specifications, as claimed by the government, compared to the original RFP. They quoted the joint statement by India and France on April 10, 2015, which mentioned that the 36 jets to be delivered by Dassault “and associated systems and weapons would be delivered on the same configuration as had been tested and approved by the Indian Air Force”.

Calling it an “enormous scandal which jeopardizes national security”, Shourie asked the government to make details of the deal public, reports Indian Express.

Regarding Dassault’s deal with Reliance Defence, he asked if it could have happened “without a nudge and a wink” from the government. He highlighted that offset guidelines of the government issued on April 1, 2016, mention that “all offset proposals will be processed by the Acquisition Manager and approved by Raksha Mantri, regardless of their value”.

A joint statement issued by the Bhushan, Sinha and Shourie said, “Could an experienced manufacturer like Dassault have picked a company that had no experience whatsoever of manufacturing aircraft…without the approval from the government and particularly the PM?”

The statement said a “private party which has had absolutely no experience in manufacturing aerospace and defence equipment has been handed an enormous financial benefit.” They demanded an independent audit by Comptroller and Auditor General.

The government machiney spun into action immediately after the PC was over. A statement was ready and emailed to most media persons. Correspondents from wire services were also sent the government’s version to counter the allegations made by the trio.

A few hours after the press meet, Arun Jaitley wrote in a blog post, “There is not a grain of truth in the wild allegations repeated today nor anything substantiating in the purported facts and voluminous documents marshaled to corroborate the baseless accusations,” he claimed

Jaitley added that the allegations constitute nothing but “reprocessed lies by forces increasingly desperate to prove their relevance”. He said the government had already responded effectively to every distortion and misinformation on the issue.” reported the Indian Express.

with inputs from Indian Express and Agencies