PMO Conducted ‘Parallel Negotiations’ in Rafale Deal: Report
Amid the ongoing controversy over the Rafale deal, a report published in The Hindu quotes an internal Defence Ministry note and suggests that there were “parallel negotiations” conducted by the PMO with the French side.
The report further states that the MoD had objected to these negotiations which purportedly “weakened” India’s negotiating position in the Rafale deal.
The note, dated 24 November 2015, was undersigned by the then Defence Secretary G Mohan Kumar, and Deputy Secretary SK Sharma, and was also brought to the attention of the then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.
The note further said that in case the PMO is not confident of the outcome, then a revised “modality of negotiations” led by the PMO could be adopted at an “appropriate level”.
‘MoD Protested Against PMO’s Contradictory Stance’
The official document, as cited by the daily, reveal that the Ministry of Defence has protested against the contradictory stance taken by the PMO.
G Mohan, the then defence secretary, wrote in the note, “RM may pl. see. It is desirable that such discussions be avoided by the PMO as it undermines our negotiating position seriously.”
However, Mohan has now refused that the said note had “nothing to do with price.”
Speaking to ANI, he said:
The new Rafale deal was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in April 2015. And a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between India and France on India’s Republic Day in 2016.
However, as per the note, the MoD was intimated about the “parallel negotiations” through a letter from General Stephen Reb on 23 October 2015, the head of the French Negotiating Team.
The Hindu quotes the letter and states that it mentions a telephonic conversation between “Shri Jawed Ashraf, Joint Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office and Mr Luis Vassy, Diplomatic Adviser to the French Minister of Defence, which took place on 20.10.2015.”
In September 2018, French President Francois Hollande had said the Narendra Modi government picked Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence for Rafale deal.
‘Parallel Negotiations Detrimental to Our Interest’
The Hindu cites the note that stated, “The discussions between Diplomatic Adviser to the French Defence Minister and Joint Secretary to PM tantamount to parallel negotiations while the Indian Negotiating Team constituted by the Ministry of Defence is undertaking the process of formal negotiations with the French side.”
The Defence Ministry note also points out that the General Reb latter had stated that, “No Bank Guarantee is provisioned in the supply protocol and the letter of comfort provides sufficient assurances of the proper implementation of the supply protocol by the industrial suppliers.”
The note further points out this was against the stand taken by the MoD and the Indian Negotiating team which supported that the “commercial offer should be preferably backed by Sovereign/Government Guarantee or otherwise by Bank Guarantee.”
(With inputs from The Hindu)