New Delhi: Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday spoke on Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) dissent note on Rafale negotiations and said people have published half-truths to create doubt in the reader’s mind.
In an interview to ANI, she said she suspected some kind of corporate warfare in the Rafale matter and added that it looked like people were making false allegations for their own sake. She said, “They’ve published half-truth; my suspicion is, they wanted to create doubts in the reader’s mind…To me, it looks an attempt by people… whether doing it for themselves or in response to some corporate warfare going on in this matter.”
Amping the attack, she asked what a journalist’s responsibility should be. She asked, “Is it not the responsibility of a journalist to…at least say we tried getting an answer from the ministry, they didn’t respond and therefore, they’re only publishing this much. (But) they’ve published a half-truth.”
She further stated that newspapers which published the five notings of the then Defence Secretary did not do a complete job. She said the nature of what they were revealing on Rafale demanded a further probe in the case and getting information on it.
On the alleged interference of the Prime Minister’s Office, she said, “If the PMO pursues a matter saying what is the progress? How far is it happening? Is it happening here? Is it happening in France? Are you all moving forward? That cannot be construed as interference at all.”
On being asked if she feared letters of Rafale deal being leaked, Sitharaman said she was not worried about Rafale or any decision that the Defence Ministry had taken as they have gone on merit. She said what worried her was the selective way in which whatever had been leaked, taken and distorted because of which false impressions were being created.
Earlier today, a media report claimed that the Defence Ministry had protested to the PMO the mechanism being taken for the Rafale deal that snowballed into a political storm with the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) launching a series of allegations and counter-claims.
A report by The Hindu claimed that the MoD raised strong objections to “parallel negotiations” being conducted by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) with the French side.
The report cited a Defence Ministry note of November 24, 2015, that had allegedly brought to the attention of then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and stated that parallel discussions by the PMO had “weakened the negotiating position of MoD and Indian Negotiating Team”.
Sitharaman dismissed the report as “flogging a dead horse” and accused the Opposition of playing into the hands of multinational companies and vested interests.