New Delhi: While the Government has dismissed a media report that the Ministry of Defence officials had raised concerns over the direct involvement of Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) in the Rafale deal, Air Marshal SBP Sinha, who led the negotiations, has called it “an attempt to malign the negotiation that happened for the procurement of the 36 Rafale jets”. (Also read: Supreme Court Says, ‘Pricing to be Discussed Only if Details Come in Public Space’)
Sinha said the note was an internal matter and had nothing to do with the Indian negotiation team that he headed.
“It has been initiated by SK Sharma, who was not part of the Indian negotiation team. On whose behest he initiated this note?” added Sinha.
He also questioned the intent of the news report and said, “It was very surprising for me to know that in the article printed today, a note within the MoD has been used to malign this procurement by concealing facts.”
Earlier, the opposition, led by Congress President Rahul Gandhi, had tried to bring the Rafale debate back to the fore by citing the report that suggested that the PMO had held parallel talks with the French government relating to pricing, something which was objected by the Ministry of Defence.
According to the report, the MoD had objected to “parallel negotiations” being carried out by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) with the French government. The MoD said that such talks had “weakened the negotiating position of MoD.
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in Lok Sabha that her predecessor Parrikar had replied to the MoD note and asked the officials to “remain calm” and there was “nothing to worry, everything is going alright”. ANI tweeted the full note of the defence ministry consisting of Parrikar’s reply to his officers.
Parrikar called the apprehension an “over-reaction” and asked then defence secretary to resolve the matter in consultation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s principal secretary. He said, “It appears PMO and French President office are monitoring the progress of the issue which was an outcome of the summit meeting. Para 5 appears to be an over reaction. Defence Secretary (G Mohan Kumar) may resolve the matter in consultation with the Principal Secretary to the PM.”