The Narendra Modi government’s Rafale deal for 36 fighter aircraft was not on better terms than the offer made by Dassault Aviation to the erstwhile United Progressive Alliance government for the procurement of 126 aircraft, The Hindu reported on Wednesday quoting a dissent note by three senior defence ministry officials.
In an exclusive, The Hindu (external link) has reported that three senior defence ministry officials who were the domain experts on the seven-member Indian Negotiating Team said that the delivery schedule of even the first 18 of the 36 flyaway Rafale aircraft in the new deal was slower than the one offered for the 18 flyaway aircraft in the original procurement process.
The findings in the report published by the national daily are contrary to the government's claims of the deal being cheaper and of having a faster delivery period. The Centre had even affirmed these claims before the Supreme Court in its official submissions.
The three domain experts on the INT were M P Singh, adviser (cost), a joint secretary-level officer from the Indian Cost Accounts Service; A R Sule, financial manager (air); and Rajeev Verma, joint secretary & acquisitions manager (air).
They recorded their views in a strong note of dissent (which has been published by the paper), dated June 1, 2016, submitted at the end of the negotiations, to the Deputy Chief of Air Staff in his capacity as chairman of the negotiating team.
The officials also registered serious concern over the government’s acceptance of a ‘Letter of Comfort’ in lieu of a sovereign guarantee, legal issues relating to the IGA, offset issues, and Dassault Aviation’s restrictive trade practices, the report added.
Wednesday’s report in The Hindu comes after previous reports which stated that the Modi-led government waived off critical provisions for anti-corruption penalties as well as overruled financial advisers’ recommendations for making payments through an escrow account just days before it signed the inter-governmental agreement with France to acquire 36 Rafale jets.
Before that the newspaper published another report on February 8 about the defence ministry’s objections to “parallel negotiations” conducted by the Prime Minister’s Office.