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Defence Ministry Had Objected To Role Of PM's Office In Rafale Deal: Report

The report says that the French side took advantage of parallel parleys by the PMO that weakened Indian team’s position.

Defence Ministry Had Objected To Role Of PM's Office In Rafale Deal: Report
Defence Ministry Had Objected To Role Of PM's Office In Rafale Deal: Report

The Ministry of Defence in 2015 objected to “parallel negotiations” conducted by the Prime Minister’s Office with France when the two countries were negotiating on the Rs 58,000 crore Rafale fighter jet deal.

Manohar Parrikar, who is now the chief minister of Goa, was in charge of the ministry at that time.

The Hindu accessed a Defence Ministry note dated November 24, 2015, which reveals that the ministry "protested that the position taken by the PMO was 'contradictory to the stand taken by MoD and the negotiating team'".

The report says that then Defence Secretary G Mohan Kumar had said that “it is desirable that such discussions be avoided by the PMO as it undermines our negotiating position seriously”. The note was prepared by Deputy Secretary (Air-II) SK Sharma, and endorsed by the ministry’s joint secretary and acquisition manager (air) and the director general (acquisition).

According to the government’s submission to the Supreme Court of India in October 2018, the negotiations over the Rafale deal were conducted by a seven-member team headed by the Deputy Chief of Air Staff. There was no mention of any role for the PMO in these negotiations.

After the report came into light, the Congress took to Twitter to slam PM Modi. The party wrote: "#PakdaGayaModi .... the prime minister had "single-handedly undermined India's position".

Earlier on Thursday, PM Modi had accused the Congress of trying to obstruct the strengthening of armed forces and demanded an answer from the opposition as to for whose favour they want the scrapping of Rafale deal.

"I want to ask what was the reason that not a single new generation fighter plane was provided to our Air Force in the last 30 years," he said at the Lok Sabha.

The Congress has accused the PM Modi government of paying more for the aircraft compared the deal negotiated by the United Progressive Alliance government and demanded a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) investigation into it. They have also accused PM Modi of helping businessman Anil Ambani land an offset contract under the deal even though he had no prior experience in the defence sector.

The new Rafale deal was announced during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Paris in April 2015 and was followed by the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two countries when the former French President Francois Hollande attended the Republic Day parade in 2016.

(With inputs from agencies)

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