Rafale deal over the past few days have sent the government reeling.The Congress alleges that the government went for an overpriced deal for Rafale jets to benefit Anil Ambani
citing an email that he said revealed the industrialist had visited Paris and met with the French Defence Minister 10 days before the PM went there and announced the 36-jet deal with France.
The press conference was a report published in The Indian Express on Tuesday that showed that entrepreneur Anil Ambani had held meetings with then French defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drien and three of his advisors in the fourth week of March in 2015.
Mr Ambani says he is first looking to make commercial helicopters. This is a breach of the Official Secrets Act.
The PM is the only other person who knows about this
Rafale deal was finalised and announced during this visit, although it was signed over a year later.
According to an official who had been briefed about Ambani’s meeting, the report said, he had expressed the desire to work with Airbus Helicopters on both civil and defence projects.
Damagingly, he was also reported as having mentioned a memorandum of understanding (MoU) ‘in preparation and the intention to sign during the prime minister’s visit’.
This MoU is construed to be the one for the Rafale deal
A spokesperson says the industrialist visited France to discuss a deal for more than 100 Naval Utility Helicopters for which the government had sought information from international helicopter manufacturers in 2015.
Airbus refused to confirm the Reliance Defence statement, “This has no link with Airbus; we do not comment”
At this point of time, neither then defence minister Manohar Parrikar nor then foreign secretary S Jaishankar knew about the announcement.
The latter had, in fact, on the eve of the prime minister’s departure told the media that in his ‘understanding’,
discussions were underway between the defence ministry, ‘the French company’, ie Dassault, and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, which, it had been envisaged, would manufacture a majority of the aircraft by means of a transfer of technology.
The Indian government made ‘unprecedented’ concessions to the French side in sealing the deal.
The report noted that eight changes were made to the inter-governmental agreement by the Defence Acquisition Council after it had been ratified and approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security.
The most significant of these were the decisions to drop anti-corruption provisions in the agreement, usually a standard feature, by non-inclusion of penalties for the exercise of ‘undue influence’ and related provisions, and the decision to drop the provision for making payments through escrow accounts.
All the changes were made days before the agreement was finally signed, The Hindu reports.
The Supreme Court in December refused to investigate the deal worth an alleged 8.7 billion dollars and rejected petitions that alleged corruption, including the choice of Anil Ambani‘s firm as domestic partner.
But the opposition says the government concealed vital information.