New Delhi: Reacting to a media report claiming that the Defence Ministry had raised strong objections to “parallel negotiations” conducted by the PMO in the Rafale jet deal, the MoD on Friday said that its dissent note on the negotiations had nothing to do with the pricing of the deal but was about sovereign guarantees and general terms and conditions.
“Whatever has been brought out (media report on Rafale) has nothing to do with pricing,” said G Mohan Kumar, Defence Secretary.
Meanwhile, rubbishing the media report, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in the Lok Sabha that it is like flogging a dead horse, further accusing the opposition of playing into hands of multinationals and vested interests.
Sitharaman also alleged that the then Chairperson of the National Advisory Council Sonia Gandhi used to run the PMO regularly during the UPA regime. “Was that not interference?,” she asked.
“Then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar ji replied to that MoD note that remain calm, nothing to worry, everything is going alright. Now, what do you call the NAC led by Sonia Gandhi’s interference in earlier PMO? What was that?” she said.
Meanwhile, the then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s reply to Defence Ministry’s dissent note, accessed by news agency ANI, read: “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.”
The clarification by the Defence Ministry came soon after Congress chief Rahul Gandhi targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi over a report by The Hindu which claimed that the MoD raised strong objections to “parallel negotiations” conducted by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) with the French side.
The report cited a Defence Ministry note dated November 24, 2015 that was reportedly 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.”
“PM Modi himself robbed Air Force’s Rs 30,000 crore and gave it to Anil Ambani, we have been raising this since 1 year. Now a report has come where Defence Ministry officials say that PM was holding parallel negotiations with France Govt,” said Rahul Gandhi while addressing a press conference over the Rafale deal.
It is an open and shut case, Rahul said, mounting a fresh attack on the government on the fighter jet deal following a media report.
The media report also led to uproar in the Upper House leading to adjournment of the proceedings for the day.
Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad sought to raise the issue but Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu disallowed him, saying he has reserved a final judgement on the notice by Congress members under Rule 267 on the issue.
The development comes a day after PM Modi, returning Rahuls’ fire over the Rafale jet deal, said the opposition party does not want the Air Force to be strong and questioned whether it was bidding for a company.
“I want to say it on the floor of Parliament that the Indian National Congress doesn’t want our armed forces to be strong. They don’t want our security apparatus to be strong. Which companies are they bidding for that they are acting so shamefully,” he said.
PM Modi’s retort came hours after Rahul, at a Congress event in Delhi, described him as a “darpok” (coward) and dared him to a five-minute face-to-face debate on issues such as Rafale and national security.