Wednesday, 23 January, 2019

Rafale deal: The whiff of wrong doings

There are loose ends in the deal. The whole affair is not as simple as it is made to look and even a layman will be able to smell a rat in the deal

Story: Deepak | Laad | 12th January 2019, 03:28 Hrs

Deepak Laad

The spirited debates kicked off in the parliament with regards to ‘Rafale deal’, are at times bordered on theatrics and hilarity. Queries raised by Rahul in respect of the deal were replied with counter charges and personal attacks by the Defence Minister and the members sitting at the treasury benches. The defence minister’s explanation was convoluted, slippery and more steeped in technicalities bereft of basic facts. A layman may not be in a position to tell a Sukhoi from a MiG-21 or a Mirage 2000 from a Tejas but can smell a rat in a defence deal with his average IQ and bit of a logic.  

Sitaraman hit back at Rahul reminding him of Bofors, Agusta Westland and National Herald scams wherein involvement of either Congress-led government and/or members of ‘the family’ is alleged. 

    This may be her way of putting it across -- “look you are involved in three scams so why create so much of commotion over a single scam of ours? She needs to recollect that the allegations of scams cost the Congress party dearly as it was reduced to 44 seats in the House post last general elections and her party ‘with a deference’ led by the ‘Na khaunga na khane dunga’ Modi was handed the reins of Government with thumping majority.  

When it comes to defence related purchase of weaponry, equipment and machinery more is the number the more formidable it makes the nation’s defence. So what is the logic behind giving the Indian Air Force 90 Jets less than the number they had requisitioned and that too shelling out a thousand crores more per piece? How a reasonable man should be led to believe that only ‘additional weapon delivery system’ fitted can cost twice the bare price of a jet, agreed on 

earlier?  

Now it is being emphasised that Dassault chose the offset partners and our government had no role in it. Question is when the matter is related to nation’s security and we are the purchasers, it should have been our prerogative to choose the offset partner and not Dassault’s prerogative, who are mere suppliers. 

Sitaraman says Defence is a serious issue and should not be trifled with. True. Then why a very recently formed private company be preferred for the offset contract to Government undertaking like Hindustan Aeronautical Ltd (HAL), which has proven experience of seven decades in manufacturing fighter planes behind it? 

When HAL’s financially bad shape was pointed out, Sitaraman mentions about other contracts in HAL’s kitty. Then why did the company resort to borrowing to pay staff salaries? And theirs having contracts on hand should not be a reason to deprive them from an opportunity to build fighter jet for the nation. 

Earlier the defence minister sounded ill-informed when she had raised doubts about HAL’s capabilities in handling the job in question and was immediately and rightly rebutted by a retired high ranking official of HAL who vouched for the abilities of the agency to execute such contracts.  

It neither was happenstance nor coincidence when a certain industrialist was seen in Paris and Moscow at the same time when Modi was visiting those places to discuss defence related deals. 

In Paris the industrialist could bag the offset contract but in Moscow was turned down by Putin who refused to choose a defence partner from private sector saying that it was their policy to choose only Government guaranteed companies abroad as offset partners. The industrialist owes banks loan repayments running in tens of thousands crores that are stressed. One of the creditor, an offshore company, has petitioned the Apex court seeking his arrest for gross & wilful contempt of the court for not paying as per its order. Now how does the patriotic Government choose such man over HAL for defence related transactions is most surprising.  

The ruling party is strengthening its arguments flourishing on the Supreme Court ‘clean chit.’ 

The court in its order has categorically stated that it did not delve deeper in technical aspects of the deal or its pricing. The Court verdict depended on the affidavit filed by the Government before it and there were no separate investigations. 

In some of the recent orders of the Apex court, the single dissenting judge’s arguments were found more convincing and more in line with the provisions of nation’s Constitution than others on the Bench -- be it justice Khehar in triple Talaq judgement, Justice Indu Malhotra in Sabarimala temple case on the issue of entry of women of menstruating age in temple or justice Chandrachud in the case branding the leftist intellectuals as ‘Urban Naxals’.  

There are loose ends in the deal. The whole affair is not as simple as it is made to look. When accusations of corruption were openly hurled at PM Modi in the Parliament and in the media he should have remained present in the House to rebut the charges rather than launching counter attacks in public meetings.  


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