Rafale Expose: How Modi’s ministers have misled parliament with impunity


Read Expose and our coverage so far;

On 7 February this year, this press release was put out by the Ministry of Defence, but it h went largely unnoticed. The press release said that “The Raksha Mantri smt Nirmala Sitharaman has constituted a 13 member RakshaMantri’s Advisory Committee on Ministry of Defence (MoD) Capital Projects (RMCOMP)” with a limited tenure. There was nothing with that. But out of the 13 members, 2 members namely R Anand, Special advisor and partner of multinational consulting firm Ernst & Young (E&Y) and Amber Dubey, Partner Head, Aerospace & Defence, Klynveld Peat Marwick Goerdeler (KPMG), another multinational consulting behemoth, stood out.

The press release states:

The terms of reference for the committee are as follows:-

  • Undertake independent review and status check of identified ongoing critical capital projects above Rs. 500 crore including ‘Mission Mode’ projects, ‘Make’ projects, ‘Buy (Indian), ‘Buy (Indian – IDDM), ‘Buy and Make’ and ‘Buy and Make (Indian)’ projects as well as ‘Design and Development’ projects under the Ministry.
  • Assess the physical and financial progress of these schemes/projects.
  • Identify specific bottlenecks and concerns that are responsible for delays, wherever applicable and suggest the way forward.
  • Any other issues related to project monitoring and appraisal that may be referred by MoD.

This raises some very serious questions especially when The Caravan broke the story of an unnamed Civil servant writing to the PM alleging corruption by the KPMG. In her statement, Defence Minister stated her inability to disclose the financial details of the 36 Rafale deal to the Parliament citing a secrecy agreement between India and France. But, the same defence minister has no qualms in appointing two senior executives of multinational private consulting firms and giving them the access to the files of Indian defence procurement and capital acquisition deals include that of Rafale!

We have several reasons to not trust this government when it claims that the Rafale deal struck by them is better negotiated in terms of technical and commercial terms. When the Modi government says that the current deal is better in terms of equipments, weapons and includes “India Specific changes”, it is nothing but a face saving exercise.

This Press release on 5 May, 2015 – three and half weeks after Modi’s announcement in France – says there is no change in any specifications or weapons as stressed by Sitharaman now. The press release quotes the then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s reply in the Rajya Sabha to Samajwadi Party MP Ravi Prakash Verma. The press release said, “… The two leaders agreed to conclude an Inter-Governmental Agreement for supply of the aircraft on terms that would be better than conveyed by Dassault Aviation as part of a separate process underway, the delivery would be in time-frame that would be compatible with the operational requirement of IAF; and that the aircraft and associated systems and weapons would be delivered on the same configuration as had been tested and approved by IAF, and with a longer maintenance responsibility by France.

This raises another question: If Parrikar was right, then Sitharaman was deliberately misleading the parliament. And if Nirmala Sitharaman speaking the truth, then Parrikar misled the parliament. But we know for certain that Manohar Parrikar was absolutely correct for the reason that the IAF never changed their submitted requirement after the extensive testing they conducted of the jets. From that point of view, it is a deliberate attempt by the government to justify the unjustifiable when they say the deal announced by Modi is “better in terms of capability, price, equipment, delivery, maintenance, training, etc.”

On 12 August 2014, the then defence minister Arun Jaitley, in a written reply to Naresh Gujral, confirmed in Rajya Sabha that “M/s Dassault Aviation of France, the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) of Rafale aircraft, emerged as L-1 bidder for procurement of Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) based on its quotation. Given the complexity of the procurement case, the process of negotiations with M/s Dassault Aviation on various aspects of the commercial proposal and provisions of draft Contract is on.”

Here, the last sentence is very important in the current scenario for three reasons. 1) The government admitted in 2014 that the provisions of draft contract is on. 2) The negotiations are a complex issue, hence it is taking time and 3) Negotiations are only on the various aspects of the commercial proposal, not technical. From this perspective, the current defence minister is answerable on how the “capability, equipment and delivery” of the aircraft became better?

On 21 July 2015 – more than three months after Modi’s unilateral announcement from France on “HIS” decision to procure 36 units of Rafale in fly away condition, the then defence minister Manohar Parrikar, in a written reply to Dr R Lakshmanan, once again confirmed that “ the aircraft and associated systems and weapons would be delivered on the same configuration as had been tested and approved by Indian Air Force.” Which again shows what the same government in its desperation to hide the details of the deal from public eye is releasing completely false and misleading informations.

In another written reply to Dr Pradeep Kumar Balmuchu in Rajya Sabha on 22 July 2014, the then defence minister Arun Jaitley confirmed. He said, “The Request for Proposal (RFP) for procurement of MMRCA included a full section on Transfer of Technology (ToT) requirements. The offer of M/s Dassault Aviation for ToT is compliant to the requirements specified in the RFP.”

Here, the last sentence is more important. It clearly states that the offer submitted by Rafale on which the negotiations were on, included the Transfer of Technology (ToT). Therefore, any explanation from N Sitharaman and the right-wing propaganda machinery claiming that Dassault was not ready for ToT is utterly false and misleading.

But the government itself changed it’ stand after signing the agreement for 36 Rafale jets with France. On 22 November 2016, in a written reply to AU Singh Deo in Rajya Sabha, MoS Defence Dr. Subhash Bhamre stated “The costs of the 36 aircraft cannot be directly compared to the cost of the original MMRCA bids since the deliverables are significantly different. Although there is no Transfer of Technology (ToT) involved in the procurement of the 36 aircraft, the provision for 50% offsets has been retained.”

This highlight two very important points. 1. When the government says “deliverables are significantly different”, they do not elaborate on the difference in deliverables. This is also contradictory to the earlier two statements by the then defence minister Manohar Parrikar in the same Upper House of the Parliament. Parrikar stated that the aircraft and associated systems and weapons would be delivered on the same configuration as had been tested and approved by Indian Air Force” on 21 July 2015. The government is answerable on what changed in the period since Parrikar’s reply in the Rajya Sabha and if the deliverables are different, whether the government had taken the necessary approvals from the IAF for such changes other than commercials. 2. Contrary to the government-supporting media claims, government admitted that the offset clause was not a new addition by the Modi government, but a mere retention of a clause from the original RFP.

“An advance aircraft such as Rafale can be produced in India after Transfer of Technology (ToT) by the Original Aircraft Manufacturer” and that the aircraft and associated systems and weapons would be delivered on the same configuration as had been tested and approved by IAF” was a written reply  given by the then defence minister Manohar Parrikar on May 5, 2015 in to Ravi Praksh Verma. That shows, when Modi announced his decision from France, ToT was still a part. What changed after that is still a mystery.

From all these replies and statements in Parliament, the government clarified on numerous occasions that there was no change in the configurations, weapons or any other aspect of the aircraft and what Nirmala Sitharaman and defence ministry are now trying to do is just a face saving exercise by hiding the facts by misleading the nation with impunity.

And it is appalling that the media at large hast lost the courage to highlight these facts with so much evidence easily available in public domain. Janta Ka Reporter was the first website to expose the potential scam in the Rafale deal. The news website is committed to take its coverage on Rafale to its logical end.

(Ravi Nair’s strength is analysing data to create powerful editorials. His expose on Rafale for Janta Ka Reporter has significantly changed the political narrative of this country. He can be contacted on Twitter via @t_d_h_nair )