Narendra Modi Personally Increased Benchmark Price of Rafale Jets By 3 billion Euros

Continuing his attack on prime minister Narendra Modi on the Rafale deal, Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday alleged that Mr Modi personally increased benchmark price of Rafale jets by 3 Billion Euros (₹22,743).

”Another RAFALE Skeleton! Mr Modi personally increased the benchmark price of RAFALE jets by 3 Billion Euros. The former Director of Finance, MOD, just said that he and the negotiating team were overruled by Mr 56,”Rahul said in a tweet.

Earlier on Thursday, the Congress came out with fresh revelations which said that PM Modi overruled objections by the price negotiation committee, the Defence acquisition council and the then Defence Minister and personally increased benchmark price of Rafale jets by 3 Billion Euros.

Rahul often refers to the Prime Minister as “Mr 56”, following the latter’s infamous “56-inch chest” comment at a BJP rally in UP’s Gorakhpur. Modi had said that it would take a “chhappan inch ki chhati (56-inch chest)” to convert UP into Gujarat while campaigning for 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

Earlier in the day, Rahul had raked up Centre’s admission to the Supreme Court that there was no “sovereign guarantee by the French government backing the deal”.

“The latest skeleton to tumble out of the RAFALE cupboard: NO Guarantee by the French Govt. backing the deal. BUT, our PM says there’s a letter from the French promising to be faithful! That’s enough to call this a “Govt to Govt” deal?,” tweeted Gandhi along with hashtag #BikGayaChowkidar

Seize Rafale files to reveal truth: Congress

The Congress on Sunday demanded a seizure of all Rafale-related documents to establish the truth behind the deal, alleging Prime Minister Narendra Modi alone knew the facts and had hidden them from other ministers and officials.

“In the face of new revelations, there is no doubt that the Prime Minister has got rattled. But he is not answering specific questions regarding the price of the Rafale jets and offset contracts, and how and at what stage the public-sector HAL was ousted,” Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma said.

“Our demand is that all related files be seized and forensic audit of the tender documents be done,” he added, asking that a joint parliamentary committee be allowed to examine these documents.

The Congress alleges that Modi had pressured the French to give the Rafale offset contract to Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence, bypassing HAL, while keeping the defence and foreign ministries in the dark.

Sharma said the Prime Minister’s state visits have “a fixed agenda with joint statements discussed in advance and the draft exchanged before the start of the tour”.

So, he asked, “when the foreign secretary says two days before (Modi’s) visit (to France in April 2015) that Rafale is not on the agenda (and) confirms ongoing negotiations with HAL, how come the decision to purchase 36 aircraft is taken?”

“It is important to see whether the draft exchanged with the French government mentioned the plan to purchase 36 fighter jets instead of the (UPA) negotiated 108 aircraft. The foreign secretary’s statement is clear (that) it was not mentioned,” Sharma said.

“Dassault chief Eric Trappier too confirmed HAL as the partner but suddenly Ambani comes in. We have said the Prime Minister will have to explain this. Or the documents will bear the truth out. The Prime Minister alone is responsible as the entire administration was kept in the dark.”

Sharma echoed Rahul Gandhi’s allegation that defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s visit to France last week was a cover-up mission, necessitated by reports quoting former French President Francois Hollande as saying the Indian government had proposed Reliance as the offset partner.

“Hence, the defence minister has gone there to manage the crisis created by former President Francois Hollande, who spoke the truth on the offset contract. Otherwise, what is the reason for the visit now?”

Sharma also accused Modi and finance minister Arun Jaitley of misleading the country on the state of the economy, arguing that most of the indicators pointed to a grim reality and that even the foreign exchange reserves were falling.

He said an outflow of $30 billion (Rs 2.2 lakh crore) had been reported, around Rs 84,000 crore of it in the first quarter of this financial year.

“How can the fastest growing economy have the worst performing currency in Asia?” Sharma said.

“We are pained at the plight of the rupee; the market is in turmoil; the credit offtake is at its lowest; the current account deficit is rising. All these are the outcome of gross mismanagement and disastrous decisions like the demonetisation.”

Sharma recalled how exports had been booming under UPA rule. “Exports were growing at 18 per cent when we left office. By that yardstick, the exports should have stood at $500 billion today,” he said.

“It was $320 billion in May 2014 when we left and it is barely $300 billion today. The loss of $200 billion, which is huge, is seriously affecting job growth.”

Source: The Telegraph

Supreme Court To Hear Fresh Petition Against Rafale Deal On October 10

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court will hear a fresh petition against the Rafale deal between India and France on Wednesday. A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph Monday said it will hear the petition filed by lawyer Vineet Dhanda, who is seeking a direction to the centre to reveal details of the deal and the comparative prices during the UPA and NDA rule in a sealed cover to the top court.

The petition also sought information about the contract given to Reliance by Dassault.

Advocate M L Sharma’s plea, filed earlier, alleging discrepancies in the fighter jet deal with France and seeking a stay on it will also come up for hearing on October 10.

Mr Sharma claimed in his petition that the inter-government agreement to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets must be quashed as it was an “outcome of corruption” and not ratified by parliament under Article 253 (parliament has power to make any law for implementing any inter-government agreement) of the Constitution.

A similar petition was filed in the top court in March this year seeking an independent probe into the Rafale deal and disclosure of the cost involved in the deal before Parliament.

The petition, filed by Congress leader Tehseen S Poonawalla, had sought a direction against the centre on why the Union Cabinet’s approval was not sought as part of the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) before signing the procurement deal with France on September 23, 2016.

Rafale deal is a defence agreement signed between the governments of India and France for the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter aircrafts in a fly-away condition as a part of the upgrading process of Indian Air Force equipment.

The Rafale fighter is a twin-engine Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) manufactured by French aerospace company Dassault Aviation.

Indian Air Force had advanced a proposal to buy 126 fighter aircraft in August 2007 and floated a tender. Following this, an invitation was sent to various aviation companies to participate in the bidding process.

Source: PTI

Rahul Gandhi says Modi Govt targeted official who raised objections on Rafale deal

Congress chief Rahul Gandhi on Thursday hit out at the Modi government for reportedly targeting a Defence ministry official who allegedly raised “objections” over the price of the Rafale jets.

He took to Twitter to take a swipe at Prime Minister Modi with a poem in Hindi alleging that he gave benefits to “crony capitalists” at the cost of state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited in the Rafale deal.

Gandhi also alleged that the officer who raised questions over the deal was penalized, while those who sided with the government were rewarded. He tagged a media report that alleged that the Defence ministry official who raised objections over the price of the Rafale jets “proceeded” on a month’s leave and the 36-Rafale deal was approved by the Defence Acquisition Council thereafter.

Citing the same media report, Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala, in a tweet, claimed that the Modi government “sent on leave the ‘whistleblower”, who questioned the loss to the state exchequer “by paying 300% extra for 36 Rafale”.

He also alleged that a senior officer, who overruled the official who raised questions over the Rafale jets pricing, was made a member of UPSC (Union Public Service Commission). “Perks of pleasing Modi govt cover corruption tracks,” he claimed.

The Rafale deal controversy took a new turn last week after Francois Hollande, who was French president when the Rs 58,000 crore deal was announced, was quoted as saying by French publication Mediapart that France was given “no choice” in selection of the Indian partner for Dassault and the Indian government proposed the name of Reliance Defence as offset partner for the French aerospace giant.

Modi had announced the procurement of 36 Rafale fighters after holding talks with Hollande on April 10, 2015, in Paris.

Congress leader Jaipal Reddy on Thursday alleged that French President Emmanuel Macron did not contradict Hollande’s claim on Rafale deal which was tantamount to the confirmation of his predecessor’s claim.

“It is for the first time that the present French president Macron while answering a specific question avoided the question. He said I was not incharge at that time. In other words, he did not contradict the version of former French president Hollande,” he claimed.

Even as the Congress steps up its attack on the government, Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar told a Marathi news channel that people do not doubt PM Modi’s intentions and that the opposition’s demand to share technical details relating to the fighter jet made no sense.

BJP chief Amit Shah lauded Pawar’s statement and tweeted, “I thank Sharad Pawar, a former Defence minister and veteran MP, for placing national interests above party politics and speaking the truth. Dear Rahul Gandhi, you would be wiser by believing your own ally and a leader of Pawar Saheb’s stature.” He tagged the Congress president in his tweet.

Home minister Rajnath Singh asked Congress leaders to advise their chief against using “derogatory” language to target the PM, an apparent reference to Gandhi’s “chor” (thief) jibe at PM Modi in his tweet. “It is not Rafale. It is Ra-fail (Rahul-fail). He will be a failure. Rahul Gandhi is trying to mislead the people on the issue,” Singh said.

Source: Financial Chronicle

 

Rafale deal: Reliance got contract first, Maharashtra Govt gave land 3 months later

When the storm broke out after the former French president Hollande’s interview, Dassault Aviation which manufactures the Rafale aircraft stated that it selected Reliance Defence not under the pressure from the Indian government but because this company was registered under the Corporate Affairs Ministry of India and it had land in Nagpur which was closer to the runway.

But according to the information which has been revealed, the day when PM Modi announced the purchase of 36 Rafale aircraft from France, that is on April 10, 2015, the Reliance Defence did not have any land at that time.

After the announcement of the Rafale deal on April 10, 2015, Reliance Defence gave a presentation to the Maharashtra government on June 2015 and demanded 289 acres of land in Multi-modal International Cargo Hub and Airport SEZ area in Nagpur.

On August 28, 2015, the formal land allotment ceremony took place, during which Anil Ambani had announced that he would invest ₹6,500 crores in a large Greenfield Aerospace Equipment Manufacturing Centre near Nagpur. It was told that at this center, which would house Anil Ambani’s new fledgling company Reliance Defence Fixed Wing Aircraft, aero-structures for commercial transport aircraft and helicopters, which can be used in both defence and commercial sectors, will be built.

It was also informed that at the same center, the components required for providing the after-sales service of the aircraft would also be manufactured.Now, Dassault Aviation’s argument that one of the reasons behind choosing Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence as the offset partner was the availability of land falls through.It is significant to recall the timeline of the developments in this deal:

    • On April 10, 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in Paris that India will buy 36 Rafael fighter aircraft from France
    • Reliance Defence had come into existence only 12 days before this announcement
    • On April 13, 2015, the then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar declares on Doordarshan that this deal has been done by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and he has supported it
    • In June 2015, Reliance Defence gives a presentation to the Maharashtra government and asks for the land
    • On August 28, 2015, after just 10 weeks, Maharashtra Government allots 289 acres of land to Reliance
    • On September 23, 2016, the agreement to purchase 36 Rafale aircraft between India and France is signed
    • On October 3, 2016, the joint venture between Reliance Defence and Dassault Aviation,the company that manufactures Rafale is announced

Once Anil Ambani’s firm got the land, Éric Trappier, CEO of Dassault Aviation, arrived in India and a programme was held in Nagpur during which Trappier laid the foundation stone of this joint factory. Apart from Trappier and Anil Ambani, the then French Defence Minister Florence Parly, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, and the then French Ambassador to India Alexandre Zeigler attended this function.

On this occasion, Anil Ambani said that it (the deal and establishing the factory) would not have been possible without the constant support and help of Union Minister Nitin Gadkari and Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.

The most interesting thing about this entire event is that when India entered into a deal for buying 36 Rafale fighters from France in fly-away state, then why was the joint venture between Dassault Aviation and Reliance Defence created?

When the aircraft was not to be manufactured in India then why was the slogan ‘Make in India’ so harped about in this deal?

In fact, the entire matter seems to be going beyond these 36 Rafale aircraft.

After the sensational statement by Francois Hollande and the furor it created, explanations and justifications have been coming in from all corners and the recent clarification was given by the law minister on Saturday, September 22, that “36 aircraft are coming from France, rest will be manufactured here in India”.

What can be understood from this statement? That the deal is not for 36 aircraft but for more than that? Or has it been decided that in the future too, the purchase of new aircraft will be through this new joint venture between Reliance Defence and Dassault Aviation?

Source: National Herald

HAL Lost Rafale Deal as it Quoted ‘257 Man-hours’ For Job Dassault Said Could be Done in 100: Minister

New Delhi: Wading into the Rafale jets controversy, Union Minister Babul Supriyo Thursday indicated that Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) lost on the deal because it quoted 2.57 times more man-hours to build fighter jets.

While HAL was to produce 108 fighter jets locally in a joint venture with French firm Dassault Aviation in the deal for 126 Rafale jets that the previous UPA regime had negotiated. The state-owned firm, however, was left out in the deal as the present government signed to buy 36 fighter jets in ‘fly-away’ condition from France.

Minister of State for Heavy Industries Supriyo, speaking at a conference on public sector enterprises organised by CII here, said HAL quoted “257 man-hours” for a job Dassault said could be done in “100 man-hours”.

For the production of Rafale fighter jets, “when Dassault said they needed 100 man hours, HAL said they needed 257, so that is indeed a big factor,” he said.

Stating that there may be political controversies over the issue, the minister said his limited point was about economics.

“I am just saying that we need to definitely look into why something that can be made in 100 hours would require 257 hours. Are we faltering somewhere. Can we bring it down? Can we negotiate on that? These are small areas that need to be looked into,” he said.

“So that is the question that all of us need to answer and that is where the government is trying their very best to support and push those public sector enterprises which need that support by the infusion of funds or the right injection at the right time – be it funds or any R&D.”

Later speaking to PTI, the minister clarified that his remarks were directed at the PSUs to assess how to match with their private peers in a time of globalisation.

HAL is a Bengaluru-based defence public sector unit and does not come under his department.

Source: PTI

Go on Offensive on Rafale Deal: Gadkari to BJP Functionaries

Mumbai: Union minister Nitin Gadkari on Thursday told BJP functionaries to go on the offensive to counter the Opposition’s allegations on the Rafale fighter jet deal instead of being defensive.

In an unrelenting tirade against the Bharatiya Janata Party-led NDA over the deal with French aerospace giant Dassault Aviation to buy 36 jets, the Congress has claimed the cost per aircraft is triple compared to the one fixed by the previous UPA government.

It also claims that the state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) was kept out of the offset deal with the French firm to benefit Anil Ambani’s firm.

Speaking at a state-level BJP meeting here, Gadkari said, “Reliance Defence will be supplying some parts to Dassault. What (aircraft) will be assembled in Nagpur and who should be Dassault’s vendor is their decision”.

“Dassault has many international parts suppliers. It is Dassault’s decision whom to appoint as their vendor,” he said.

The road transport and highways minister alleged that the Opposition was trying to create confusion about the deal.

“The Indian government had nothing to do with it (Dassault’s choice of Indian partner). (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi also has nothing to do with the deal. The Opposition is unnecessarily creating confusion about this deal. We are a transparent government. We should be on the offensive and not be defensive on it,” Gadkari told party functionaries.

“India has been buying fighter aircrafts since 2002. I feel sad about the condition of the aircrafts we have right now. So many fighter planes have crashed till date. The condition of helicopters is such that (it feels as if) you are sitting in a truck. Modi travels in such helicopters,” he added.

He claimed the cost negotiated by the NDA for Rafale jets was 40 per cent cheaper than what the UPA had agreed upon.

At a media interaction here on Tuesday, Union minister Prakash Javadekar had claimed that the cost of the jets was 20 per cent lower compared to the price negotiated by the UPA dispensation.

Source: News18.com

Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence Formed Only When Rafale Deal Was Announced: Congress

New Delhi: The Congress party on Tuesday launched a scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Rafale deal and its connection with Anil Ambani saying that the “businessman friend’s” Reliance Defence was incorporated when the aircraft deal was announced. Speaking at a press conference, Congress leader Kapil Sibal said that the deal was made to favour Ambani.

“On March 28, 2015, Reliance Defence Limited was incorporated. On March 25, 2015, Eric Trappier stated that contract with HAL was finalised. On March 11, 2015, HAL and Dassault stated parts of Rafale manufactured by HAL and Dassault will be guaranteed by respective companies,” Sibal said.

The Congress leader further alleged that only former French president Francois Hollande and PM Narendra Modi were aware of the Rafale deal. “On April 8, 2015, Foreign Secretary of India stated Rafale deal wasn’t on the table during PM’s visit to France on April 10, 2015. But PM announced about the 36 Rafale aircrafts deal, while none of them were aware,” he said.

“On April 24, Reliance Aerostructure Limited was formed days after Rafale deal was announced. Therefore, both Modi and Reliance knew what the other was up to. Only HAL didn’t know. Manohar Parrikar, Arun Jaitley or Nirmala Sitharaman none of them were aware of the new deal announced by PM. Only two people knew — then French President Hollande and PM Modi,” the allegation continued.

“Why did they take decision on Rafale deal on April 10? We are only asking for the price, not the technology,” he said.

Attacking the BJP on their “international conspiracy” remark, Sibal said, “We wanted Rafale deal to go through, which would generate thousands of jobs. I want to ask Nirmala Sitharaman where did she come across the international conspiracy.” BJP chief Amit Shah had earlier kicked up a storm saying if the Opposition was forming an ‘International Mahagatbandhan’ with Pakistan since both of them chant “Modi hatao”.

Shah’s tweet read, “Rahul Gandhi says ‘Modi Hatao’, Pakistan says ‘Modi Hatao’. Now Pakistan also supports Rahul Gandhi’s baseless allegations against PM Modi. Is Congress forming an International Mahagathbandhan against PM Modi?”

The Rafale deal row began soon after Francois Hollande claimed that the Indian government had suggested the name of Anil Ambani-led Reliance Defence as the Offset partner for Dassault in the aircraft deal.

Source/Credits: IBTimes

GOI told us take Reliance or No Deal: Former top Francois Hollande defence aide stands by ex-President’s statements on Rafale

A former top defence aide and one of the military advisers to the ex-President of France, Francois Hollande in an exclusive interview with IndiaScoops.com, has concurred and stood by the statements made by the former French Premier on the Rafale deal.

“I was aware and in the know of almost everything concerning the deal and what the ex-President said is absolutely correct and true,” he told IndiaScoops.com.

He also told IndiaScoops.com that there is great pressure from the Government of India (GOI) on the French establishment, the French government and Dassault Aviation to issue press statements favoring the decisions taken at that point in time.

The French government, the former French Premier  Francois Hollande and the entire Defence setup of France had absolutely no role to play in the selection of the Indian partner. It was a decision foisted upon us by the GOI, he told IndiaScoops.com.

According to one of Hollande’s former Defence adviser who spoke to  IndiaScoops.com, even Dassault Aviation was initially keen on going ahead with the Indian PSU HAL and was looking forward to partnering with HAL for tech-transfer and joint-manufacturing of the state-of-the-art fighter jet.

He supported the IndiaScoops.com story that the decision was  mysteriously changed at the last minute by Dassault CEO Eric Trappier (Read Here) and two other officials, in spite of written reservations by the HODs of the entire Dassault tech team, who had an animated discussion on email among themselves, about the pros and cons of working with a new inexperienced company like Reliance Defence Ltd, which lacked the expertise and experience to handle state-of-the-art classified military and aviation tech.

“Ask Dassault to produce the emails and internal assessment of their own teams and the entire matter will become crystal clear,” the former Defence expert told IndiaScoops.com on phone from Paris on condition of anonymity.

Also Read: Rafale Deal: Technical HODs at Dassault claim Reliance was never the first choice, decision to drop HAL was taken by CEO Eric Trappier at the last minute

Last week former French president Francois Hollande, who negotiated the Rafale deal with PM Narendra Modi, declared that it was the Indian government (GOI) who proposed Reliance — “we had no choice”, he said.

But a day later, he said that it was for Dassault to comment on whether it had been pressured to choose Anil Ambani’s firm as an offset partner — as part of the contract, Dassault has to invest 50 per cent of the overall value of the deal or Rs. 30,000 crore in partnering with defence manufacturers in India.

According to a report in The Wire, the former French President is understood to have told a publication: The new deal also included the offset agreement between Dassault and the Reliance Group, now the subject of controversy. How and by whom was the latter selected? “We didn’t have any say in this matter,” Hollande told Mediapart.

“It is the Indian government which had proposed this service group, and Dassault who negotiated with Anil Ambani. We didn’t have the choice, we took the interlocutor who was given to us. That’s why, also, this group had no reason to give me any grace [favour] of any sort.

Rafale Deal Caused Great Loss to Exchequer’, is the mother of all scams

New Delhi: The controversy over the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jet planes by the Narendra Modi government is getting hotter, reports The Wire.

Other political leaders and civil society activists too are beginning to raise questions on the secrecy around the defence deal with French company Dassault Aviation.

The Congress has held a series of press conferences in the last few months to highlight alleged irregularities and cronyism in the deal finalized by BJP-led NDA government.

On Wednesday, eminent advocate and activist Prashant Bhushan and former BJP leaders Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie put the Union government in the dock for maintaining a conspicuous opacity around the issue, which has become one of the most fiercely debated issues of the Modi regime.

They alleged multiple instances of bypassing of regulations and lack of transparency in the deal, which they said caused a great loss to the exchequer and may have “jeopardised national security”, reports The Wire.

They also said the losses made by the government appear to have profited one private company, the Anil Ambani-owned Reliance Infrastructure Limited, which secured the offset contract arising out of the purchase.

They presented a detailed, point-by-point, draft that pointed out several irregularities in the way the deal was struck in 2015. The trio also drew attention to various inconsistencies in the versions that the government has advanced from time to time.

Loss to the exchequer

The leaders pointed out that when PM Modi announced that India would purchase 36 Rafale aircraft in a “fly-away” condition in April 2015 during his visit to France, he not only violated many protocols, but also overlooked the previous, cheaper, deal struck by the UPA government.

They said the UPA government had negotiated a deal with Dassault after an official bidding process, following which Dassault Aviation was given the contract to hand over 18 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircrafts (MMRCA) in a fly-away condition to India and assist the Indian public sector company Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to manufacture another 108 aircraft by transferring its technology, reports The Wire.

The request for proposal that the UPA issued included cost of initial purchase, transfer of technology and licensed production among others. The deal would have cost India Rs 42,000 crore, the leaders said.

However, Modi overlooked the earlier deal and negotiated the purchase of 36 aircraft at a cost of Rs 60,000 crore (according to documents released by Dassault and Reliance). The trio said this figure is “embarrassing for the government” as each aircraft would cost Rs 1,660 crore.

The leaders said this is an even bigger figure than the one estimated by then defence minister Manohar Parrikar in an interview to Doordarshan. Parrikar had pegged the amount as Rs 90,000 crore for 126 planes, which works out to Rs 715 crore per plane.

They pointed out Parrikar’s interview was only a few days ahead of Modi’s announcement of the purchase of 36 aircraft from Paris, indicating that the defence minister may not have been in the loop before the final deal was struck.

Additionally, the new deal did not figure HAL in the picture and did not mention transfer of technology clause, causing further damage to the country’s exchequer.

Inconsistencies in the government versions

Shourie, Bhushan and Sinha also hinted at the possibility of the government deliberately denying information regarding the contract, highlighting several examples. First, Parrikar did not know about the new agreement with Dassault. Or else, why would he talk about buying 126 planes only a week before the final agreement, the trio asked.

Second, only two days before Modi announced the deal, the then foreign secretary S. Jaishankar briefed the press about Rafale on April 8, 2015. He spoke about HAL’s involvement and added that Modi’s visit to France was a “leadership-level” one and the “ongoing defence contracts” were on a “different track”. Yet, Modi announced an entirely new deal two days later, reports The Wire.

Three, the India-France joint statement indicated that the new agreement was more favourable to India than the UPA negotiated one, ensuring the aircraft are delivered at a much reduced price.

However, the leaders pointed out that the government was yet to reveal the price, but Dassault and Reliance’s documents show that the aircraft were bought at a price three times higher than the deal UPA had negotiated, reports The Wire.

They further said the joint statement also indicated that the price could not have become higher because of newly added aircraft configurations.

The joint statement says clearly “the aircraft and associated systems and weapons would be delivered on the same configuration as had been tested and approved by Indian Air Force (during the UPA government)”.

Regarding the response of the government that the new deal was struck because of an urgent requirement in the Indian Air Force, the leaders said:

“All that was said by government sources in justification was that the Air Force needed the planes urgently and that these 36 planes would reach India within two years. Three years later, the aircraft are nowhere in sight. It has in fact been announced in parliament that the first Rafale fighters will come only by September 2019 (four-and-a-half years after the prime minister’s announcement). The full-pack of 36 aircraft will not be available to India till mid-2022.”

When the new deal was announced in April 2015, it was not approved by the cabinet committee on security. They said there was clear evidence that the defence ministry violated many defence regulations and procedures when the deal was being materialised.

They also questioned the government on why it did not invite fresh tenders despite the fact that one of the original bidders, Eurofighter GmbH, had “formally written to the the then defence minister Arun Jaitley on July 4, 2014, offering to reduce the cost of the Eurofighter Typhoon by a full 20%?”

Cronyism

The most severe charge they made against the government was that the purpose of the new deal was to “kick out” HAL and give the offset contract to Reliance, reports The Wire.

Claiming that it was one of the most blatant instances of cronyism, the leaders asked how could Reliance Defence Limited – a subsidiary of RIL – which was formed only 10 days before the new deal was signed, had no previous experience of aerospace manufacturing and no factory unit, could get the biggest defence offset contract in Indian history.

\They were pointing towards the contract that the joint venture company between Dassault Aviation and Reliance Defence Ltd secured to maintain and repair the newly-bought 36 aircrafts.

The offset value is Rs 30,000 crore and a subsequent lifecycle contract amounting Rs 1 lakh crore was also given to the joint venture.

“Neither Reliance Defence nor any of its allied companies have any experience of manufacturing aerospace and defence equipment. Its Pipavav Shipyard is facing serious difficulties in building Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) for the Navy – a long-delayed order that is impacting the Navy’s operational effectiveness. In contrast, HAL has over 60 years of experience in aircraft manufacturing.”

Secrecy around the deal

The most severe charge they made against the government was that the purpose of the new deal was to “kick out” HAL and give the offset contract to Reliance.

Even as the allegations on the government piled up, the union government has not revealed either the cost of the plane or why HAL was denied the offset contract. Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman has said that since these are issues of national security, the details could not be divulged because of a secrecy clause, reports The Wire.

However, Bhushan, Sinha and Shourie pointed out several contradictions in this explanation. They said the same government had disclosed the details of the deal on the floor of the government and questioned why the secrecy clause was not adhered to then.

“In fact, on November 18, 2016, in response to a question asked in the Lok Sabha on the acquisition of fighter aircraft, the MoS, Defence stated that, Inter-Governmental Agreement with the government of French Republic has been signed on September 23, 2016 for purchase of 36 Rafale aircraft along with requisite equipments, services and weapons. Cost of each Rafale aircraft is approximately Rs 670 crore and all the aircraft will be delivered by April 2022.”

They claimed the government was “definitely trying to hide something” when suspicions have emerged around the deal. They also cited examples of cost of defence contracts made public on several occasions by different governments.

“Even more conclusive is the fact that the secrecy clause in the agreement binds India not to disclose the technical specifications and operational capabilities of the aircraft. It does not bind India to keep the price secret. In fact, French President Emmanuel Macron himself stated explicitly in March in an interview to India Today that how much is to be disclosed in this regard is entirely up to the Indian government,” the leaders added.

In the end, the leaders said the unfolding of the Rafale deal bears much similarity to the infamous Bofors scam in the 1980s where too the government insisted on not disclosing the details. Later, it became evident that the Congress government was trying to hide high-level corruption, reports The Wire.

In the end, the trio urged the parliament and media to follow up on the case. “The entire transaction is thus a textbook case of criminal misconduct, of misuse of public office, and of enriching parties at the expense of the national interest and national security,” they said.

Source: The Wire