By Binoy Viswam
When the CAG report got presented in the 16th Lok Sabha on its last day, Narendra Modi might have breathed a sigh of relief. But Rafale will continue roaring in his ears and thoughts in the coming days. In the name of national security Narendra Modi and company tried their level best to hide the what-abouts related to Rafale deal from the people. But the details of the defence deal have fallen out through various sources reveal that Narendra Modi government mortgaged the nation for the sake of pecuniary interests of his own and his friends. He was trying to render a helping hand to Anil Ambani to become the offset partner in the defence deal. It is to everybody’s presumption that a large part of Ambani’s fortunes in his defence deal was supposed to reach the coffers of BJP. For this the ‘nationalist’ prime minister in a subtle manner pushed off Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
The defence deal with Rafale has rather a long history. It began during the UPA regime. Then also the idea was to augment the striking capacity of Indian Air Force. And the original negotiations were for 126 aircrafts and HAL was very much there in the whole negotiation process. When Narendra Modi came to power negotiations took a different turn through which national defence was sidelined. Not only HAL, even the defence ministry and its minister were kept under dark. As per the documents revealed by ‘The Hindu’ a parallel line of negotiation was opened in which the prime minister’s office was playing the key role.
According to the defence ministry files itself it was a seven-member negotiating team authorised for the talks with Rafale. It is reported that there were 18 rounds of negotiations between India and France. During the final stage Narendra Modi entered the scene and tried to dictate the terms. When this high level intervention came to the notice of the defence ministry, they noted down in the files that “the PMO may be advised” not to indulge in this matter as it may weaken the position of the Indian negotiating team. That file speaks a lot about Rafale deal. It tells that the intention of the prime minister and his office was not to strengthen India’s position in this crucial defence deal. For whom and for what was this intervention is now not a secret at all. Reliance defence, the company mooted by Anil Ambani was born only a couple of weeks before the treaty was signed. Their expertise in the field of fighter aircrafts was near to nothing. Still with the patronage of the nationalist prime minister Reliance company could push out Hindustan Aeronautics Limited with its track record of several decades in service of the nation.
The arm twisting skill of Narendra Modi is such that he could force the then defence secretary to state that there was nothing unusual in the files as such kind of exchanges are nothing but usual. No, it is not usual that the office of the prime minister of a country making telephone calls to the advisor to the defence minister of another country. If such a talk was necessary that should have been at the level of the defence minister’s offices of both the countries. This incident shows how eager and enthusiastic Narendra Modi was in reaching the agreement that would benefit Anil Ambani at the cost of India’s integrity and security! In the CAG report also it was visible. Narendra Modi was keen to white wash the black deal entered between India and the French Company, Dassault Aviation Limited. Report of the CAG on Capital Acquisition to Indian Air Force mainly deals with the Inter Governmental Agreement (IGA) for acquisition of 36 Rafale aircraft and the provisions of an Indo-French Agreement, signed on January 25, 2008. It is intriguing that in such a report commercial details of the deal was not mentioned. The government was always insisting that this being a matter of national security the price information of Rafale deal cannot be revealed. On its letter dated February 6, 2019, the ministry of defence reiterated the same position to the CAG also. Still without the commercial details, CAG acted swiftly and trustworthily to the government.
The present CAG who was the finance secretary during the crucial period of Rafale has somehow managed to present a report that can be used by BJP to cover their ugly face of corruption. Even though the pricing details are not disclosed the CAG found out that NDA – Rafale deal price was 2.86 percent less than the UPA rate. In the same breath, the report says that it was benefitting to Dassault also. Profits for Dassault means loss for India. Certain reports say that during UPA the cost for one Rafale fighter was calculated as 11 million Euros. During NDA it became 36 million Euros per fighter.
The arithmetical principle adopted by CAG in working out the 2.86 percent theory is not known. The watch word of the CAG says that it is “Dedicated to Truth in Public Interest”. But in his report Rajiv Mehrishi, the CAG opted to close his eyes to many of the truths, it seems. Of course it is not for the public interest, it is for the interests of the political masters who have successfully caged all the institutions including the CBI for their dirty political ends. Now CAG also is attached to that band wagon otherwise how could the CAG blatantly close its eyes to the dissent note prepared by 3 members in the Indian negotiating team? How could he neglect Modi’s decision to do away with the bank guarantee and sovereign guarantee in such a huge commercial deal with great relevance to national security?