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Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Rahul Gandhi on Rafale deal: ‘Clear that PMO carried out parallel negotiations’

The Hindu report states that the Defence Ministry had raised strong objections to “parallel negotiations” conducted by the PMO in the Rafale defence deal

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Updated: February 8, 2019 6:45:21 pm
Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and P Chidambaram at AICC headquarters in New Delhi (Express photo/Anil Sharma)

Congress president Rahul Gandhi Friday intensified his attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the Rafale deal following a media report that the Defence Ministry had protested the “parallel negotiations” being carried out by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) with the French side.

“With the media report today it is black and white that the PM himself was carrying out parallel negotiations with the French. We have been saying there should be a JPC, an inquiry.” Gandhi said at a press briefing at AICC headquarters in New Delhi.

Official documents available to The Hindu have revealed that the Defence Ministry protested that the position taken by the PMO was “contradictory to the stand taken by MoD and the negotiating team.

The report further cites a Defence Ministry note dated November 24, 2015, stating that such parallel discussions by the PMO had “weakened the negotiating position of MoD and Indian Negotiating Team”. The note was brought to the attention of the then Defence Minister, Manohar Parrikar, the report states.

On September 27, 2016, The Indian Express had also reported about a Defence Ministry official who raised questions about the deal’s benchmark price and put his objections on record.

Read: ‘Flogging a dead horse,’ Nirmala Sitharaman tells Lok Sabha on Rafale

Referring to The Hindu report, Gandhi further quoted the then Defence Secretary, G Mohan Kumar, who had prepared the note as saying: “It is desirable that such discussions be avoided by the PMO as it undermines our negotiating position seriously.”

Reacting to the report, Mohan Kumar, who was appointed as the Defence Secretary in 2015, however, said the Defence Ministry’s dissent note had “nothing to do with the price”. “It was about sovereign guarantees and general terms and conditions,” he told news agency ANI.

Read: Defence Ministry official put on record objections to 36-Rafale deal

The media report further states that the Defence Ministry “advise PMO that any Officers who are not part of Indian Negotiating Team may refrain from having parallel parlays [parleys] with the officers of French Government.” “In case the PMO is not confident about the outcome of negotiations being carried out by the MoD, a revised modality of negotiations to be led by PMO at the appropriate level may be adopted in the case,” the report further added.

“It is clear that the PM has bypassed the process and stolen over Rs 30,000 crore and given it to his friend Anil Ambani,” Gandhi told the media.

Addressing the “young men and the armed forces” of the country, Gandhi said, “This is about your future. You are the defenders, protectors. You die for us. It is clear that the PM has bypassed the process. It is an open and shut case.”

Continuing his demand for a JPC probe in the deal, Gandhi said, “You can investigate any of our members. Launch a probe against Robert Vadra, P Chidambaram or anyone in the party. But investigate Rafale deal.”

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