The Hindu report created fresh controversy over Rafale deal

The Hindu report has created a  fresh controversy over Rafale deal. This has claimed that senior defence ministry officials objected to what they termed “parallel parleys” by the PMO officials with the French authorities while the Indian Negotiating Team was handling the talks for procuring fighter jets for the Indian Air Force.

The Rafale deal was signed between India and France at the inter-governmental level in 2016 for the purchase of 36 fighter jets. Quoting an internal note of the Defence Secretary dated November 24, The Hindu claimed, the defence ministry secretary protested the PMO’s intervention in Rafale deal.

The MoD under Manohar Parrikar was of view that PMO intervention undermined the Rafale negotiations. “It is desirable that such discussions be avoided by the PMO as it undermines our negotiating position seriously,” read the note published in the report. With this report, the Rafale deal issue once again has rocked two houses of the Parliament,with the Congress demanding a JPC probe into the defence deal.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi referring to this report said that it is crystal clear that PM Modi is guilty in Rafale deal. He accused that PM Modi himself robbed Air Force of Rs 30,000 crore and gave it to Anil Ambani. “We have been raising this since one year. Now a report has come where Defence Ministry officials say that the PM was holding parallel negotiations with the French government,” he added.

He alleged that Modi held parallel talks with France, undermining the standard procedure, seeking his reply over the deal. “Yesterday, Mr Modi gave a lengthy sermon, why doesn’t he answer these questions? Why doesn’t he state the reason for parallel negotiations?” he said.

However, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman launching  a counter-attack said raising the Rafale deal issue on the basis of a media report is “flogging a dead horse.”  She accused the opposition parties of playing into the hands of multinational companies and vested interests. She also questioned Gandhi over his criticism that the prime minister diverted “Rs 30,000 crore to his industrialist friend Anil Ambani”  which could have been used for defence forces.

Sitharaman said, “It is very dangerous…Is he trying to provoke the defence forces?”. She has earlier defended the Rafale deal in the Lok Sabha, where she made a suo motu statement after the opposition members disrupted the proceedings in the house and demanded clarification from the government over a report published by The Hindu.

Sitharaman said, “Then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar ji replied to that MoD note that remain calm. There is nothing to worry about. Everything is going alright. Now, do you call the NAC (the national advisory council during the Manmohan Singh government) led by Sonia Gandhi as interference in earlier the PMO? What was that?”

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