The Rafale deal with France signed by the Narendra Modi government was not “on better terms” compared to the offer negotiated by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government, The Hindu reported on Wednesday. The newspaper quoted from a dissent note written by three senior defence ministry officials who were the domain experts on the seven-member Indian negotiating team.
The India-France joint statement had in April 2015 claimed that the terms for 36 flyaway aircraft agreed to by the Modi government would be better than the offer made by Dassault Aviation, which manufactures the jets, for 126 aircraft.
“Commenting on the final €7.87 billion cost of the new Rafale deal, the domain experts stated that ‘the reasonability of price offered by the French Government is not established’,” The Hindu reported, quoting from the dissent note. “Even the final price offered by the French government cannot be considered as ‘better terms’ compared to the MMRCA [medium multi-role combat aircraft] offer and therefore not meeting the requirement of the joint statement.”
The domain experts had also pointed out that the planes would be delivered on a timescale longer than what was promised in the joint statement. Additionally, they raised questions about the lack of a bank guarantee.
Air Marshal RKS Bhadauria, who chaired the negotiating team, told ANI that three members of his team had raised objections, but they were “suitably included and addressed” in the final report. He said the objections should not be seen as a dissent note as claimed in the news report, but as part of the deliberations of the team.
On Monday, The Hindu reported that the Centre had waived critical provisions for anti-corruption penalties and overruled the recommendations from financial advisers for an escrow account for the Prime Minister’s Office days before signing the deal.
Last week, the newspaper published a report claiming that Modi himself had carried out “parallel negotiations” with France on the deal though the Ministry of Defence had expressed its objections. However, neither of the details were reportedly part of the material submitted by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government to the Supreme Court. The court in December had dismissed all petitions seeking an inquiry into the deal.