Responding to a report in The Indian Express Thursday that a Ministry of Defence official had placed on record his objections on the deal to procure 36 Rafale aircraft, official sources said that it “betrays ignorance of the collegiate process involving due deliberations and diligence at various levels, through which all major Government decisions are typically taken.” Sources added: “While ensuring utmost integrity and transparency, the process allows for opinions to be freely expressed, recorded, discussed and, if necessary, modified”.
The Indian Express reported that nearly a month before the deal for 36 Rafale aircraft was signed between then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and his French counterpart in New Delhi in September 2016, the then Joint Secretary & Acquisition Manager (Air) in the MoD had raised certain objections which were “overruled” by his superior officer, Director General (Acquisition).
This cleared the path for its approval by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), followed by the approval of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) on September 21, 2016 for the Rs 59,262-crore deal which was signed two days later.
Official sources said: “The Government has categorically stated earlier as well that all provisions laid down in the Defence Procurement Procedure and other relevant guidelines were fully followed in the acquisition of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft. The apex decision making body for defence acquisitions, the Defence Acquisition Council chaired by Raksha Mantri, accepted the necessity for the acquisition of Rafale aircraft and mandated the Contract Negotiating Committee.”
Following the stipulated process, official sources said, the Cabinet Committee on Security approved the acquisition on August 24, 2016.
As reported by The Indian Express, the CNC was headed by the Deputy Chief of the IAF and had JS & AM (Air) as its member. It held 14 rounds of negotiations with a team of French officials.
“It has been categorically stressed by the Government several times that not only price but also other factors including maintenance, training, armament and equipment, etc. in the contract for the 36 Rafale fighter aircraft represent better terms as compared to the negotiations conducted but never concluded by the previous Government,” sources said.
According to official sources, “the officer had signed the note considered and approved by the CCS on 24 August 2016, thereafter, he proceeded in September 2016 for a one-week training programme”. The Indian Express had erroneously mentioned his period of absence on study leave as one month.