INDIA. Mumbai: The political atmosphere in India has heated up once again over the multi-crore rupees deal to purchase 36 Rafale jets, the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) from the French company-Dassault Aviation, with opposition led by the Congress demanding a probe by a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) into the deal.
Congress general secretary and chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala in a media briefing on Saturday, alleged corruption and a loss of Rs 21,075 crore to the state exchequer in the Rafale deal, after a French media outlet reported about the role of a “middleman”.
The government of India has already denied any wrongdoing in the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets from Dassault Aviation. Similarly, Dassault Aviation has also rejected the fresh allegations of corruption, days after French online journal “Mediapart”, in its report on April 6, 2021, alleged that the jet manufacturer had paid nearly one million Euros to an Indian middleman.
Now the Parquet National Financier (PNF), national financial prosecutor of France, has launched an inquiry on June 14, 2021, into the suspicions of “corruption” in the Rs.59,000 crore (7.8 billion euro) deal with India for 36 Rafale jets, as per the report by “Mediapart”, quoting national financial prosecutor’s office. The PNF had refused to investigate the deal in 2019 when the agency’s then head Eliane Houlette dismissed a complaint filed by French anti-corruption NGO Sherpa in 2018.
The NDA Government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on April 10, 2015, announced to purchase 36 MMRCA from Dassault Aviation at a cost of over Rs 1,670 crore although the earlier UPA govt had signed an agreement to purchase 126 MMRCA for Rs 526 crore. The new deal was inked on June 14, 2016, without the transfer of technology and bypassing UPA’s global tender. The new deal led to the loss of 2.81 billion euros (Rs 21,075 crore) to the public exchequer.
Anil Ambani’s “Reliance Defence” formed barely 12 days before the agreement was signed, was made partner in Dassault Reliance Aerospace Limited (DRAL), a joint venture, at Modi’s insistence. The agreement between Reliance Infrastructure Limited (RIL) and Dassault excluded Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), showing the influence of Reliance with Modi Govt. The then French Prime Minister, Francois Hollande had made it clear that the decision to appoint Reliance as Dassault’s industrial partner was that of Modi Govt and that France “had no choice” in the matter.
RIL owns 51% and Dassault ownsd 49% in the DRAL. Dassault pledged to provide 159 Million Euros i.e. 94% of the total maximum investment whereas Reliance was to bring only 10 Million Euros. Reliance is to provide production facilities and ‘marketing for program and services with the Govt of India’. Under the Make in India initiative, the Rafale engine doors are being manufactured in the DRAL’ facility in Nagpur in Maharashtra.
Modi Govt and French Govt deleted mandatory ‘anti-corruption clauses’ i.e. “No Bribery, No Gift, No Influence, No Commission, No Middlemen” clause from the agreement, although the Indian Defence Ministry had proposed the clause to be part of the ‘Inter-Governmental Agreement’ dated July 20, 2015, for the 36 Aircrafts Rafale deal.
There was a suspicious deal between Dassault Aviation and Defsys Solutions ( run by Gupta) in 2017-2018. Defies Solutions functioned as a middleman between the Govt of India and Dassault. Gupta used an IT services company called IDS, where a member of his family allegedly worked, to receive payments from Dassault. In response, Gupta’s legal counsel claimed that the report was incorrect and he never had any offshore dealings with Dassault, Thales, or Safran as alleged.
Now thePNF has ordered an investigation into “Rafale Papers” for “corruption” and “favouritism” on the complaint of Sherpa. The investigation will cover, the actions of former French President, François Hollande, current French President Emmanuel Macron, present Foreign Affairs Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian and the role of RInfra i.e. Reliance Infrastructure Limited, India.
Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee chief Nana Patole said that if all the French bigwigs are facing the inquiry, then Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi should order at least a JPC probe into the deal.
In the meanwhile after the first batch of five Rafale jets arrived in India on July 29, 2020, the aircraft are reaching India in batches. Four planes landed on April 21, 2021, followed by three planes on May 28, 2021. Till now the strength of the IAF’s squadron has reached around 18 aircraft.