Rafale Parallel Negotiations By PMO Weakened India’s Negotiating Team: Defence Ministry’s Note
“It is desirable that such discussions be avoided by the PMO” the note reads.
The Union Ministry of Defence under Manohar Parrikar had reportedly raised strong objections about the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) weakening the Indian team’s position by running a “parallel negotiations” with the French side, when the negotiations were at their peak in November 2015.
A report by N. Ram in The Hindu reveals a note, written by the Defence Ministry to Parrikar, saying, “we may advise PMO that any Officers who are not part of Indian Negotiating Team may refrain from having parallel parlays [parleys] with the officers of French Government.”
General Stephen Reb, the head of the French Negotiating Team, had written a letter to the Defence Ministry, which mentioned a “a telephonic conversation between Shri Jawed Ashraf, Joint Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office and Mr. Luis Vassy, Diplomatic Adviser to the French Minister of Defence, which took place on 20.10.2015.”
According to The Hindu, “The Defence Secretary’s firm opposition was recorded on November 24, 2015 on a note prepared by S. K. Sharma, Deputy Secretary (Air-II), and endorsed by the Joint Secretary & Acquisition Manager (Air) and the Director General (Acquisition) in the Ministry.”
The Defence Ministry said that the PMO’s position was “contradictory to the stand taken by MoD and the negotiating team.” The then Defence Secretary, G. Mohan Kumar, wrote, “RM (Raksha Mantri) may pl. see. It is desirable that such discussions be avoided by the PMO as it undermines our negotiating position seriously.”
The note specifically mentions a “glaring example” — that based on a conversation with the Joint Secretary to the the PMO, the French side did not include the provision of a bank guarantee, which was in contradiction with the Indian negotiation team’s position. ”
“..taking into consideration the outcome of discussions between Diplomatic Adviser to the French Defence Minister and Joint Secretary to PM, no Bank Guarantee is provisioned in the supply protocol and the letter of comfort provides sufficient assurances of the proper implementation of the supply protocol by the industrial suppliers,” the note said, adding that this was, “contrary to the position taken by the MoD and conveyed by Indian Negotiating Team that the commercial offer should be preferably backed by Sovereign/Government Guarantee or otherwise by Bank Guarantee,” reported The Hindu.
The Defence Ministry note also reportedly said that “the discussions between Diplomatic Adviser to the French Defence Minister and Joint Secretary to PM tantamount to parallel negotiations while the Indian Negotiating Team constituted by the Ministry of Defence is undertaking the process of formal negotiations with the French side.”
The fact that the PMO was running such parallel negotiations becomes more suspicious considering the Narendra Modi-led government had told the Supreme Court that the negotiations were conducted by the a seven-member MoD team headed by Deputy Chief Air of staff, reported The Hindu. This shows that the Modi government hid this key fact from the Supreme Court.
This is not the first instance when a mention of “parallel negotiations” hase been made. National Security Advisor Ajit Doval was said to have conducted parallel negotiations with France in January 2016. The Hindu reports that it has documents that confirm that it was Doval who advised Parrikar to do away with sovereign guarantee or a bank guarantee which is otherwise a standard for all such defence deals.
The deal that was signed by the NDA government under Modi, is completely different from what was under negotiation since the UPA times. An earlier exposé in The Hindu had pointed out that PM Modi’s decision to buy 36 fly-away Rafale jets instead of the previously negotiated 126 aircraft had shot up the price of each jet by around 41 per cent.