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Why Manohar Parrikar’s Reply to Defence Ministry’s Rafale Note Does More Harm to The Modi Govt

Parrikar's reply supports the widely-held belief that the Defence Minister himself was kept out of the loop by the PMO while negotiating the Rafale deal. 

Following the uproar over the The Hindu report that Defence Secretary’s note said Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) was running parallel negotiations with the French side on the Rafale Deal, defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman released the portion containing then Manohar Parrikar’s reply. The reply only adds fuel to the fire, inculpating the government further.

The note prepared by the defence ministry had strongly objected to the parallel negotiations being conducted by the PMO. In paragraph 5, the Defence Ministry said, “It is, therefore, clear that such parallel discussions by the PMO has weakened the negotiating position of the MoD and Indian Negotiation Team. 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.”

Then Defence Secretary G Mohan Kumar had written, “RM (Raksha Mantri) may pl. see. It is desirable that such discussions be avoided by the PMO as it undermines our negotiating position seriously.”

Also Read: Nirmala Sitharaman Admits Veracity of Rafale Note, Says What About NAC and Sonia Gandhi?

Parrikar’s reply to these objections was, “It appears that PMO and French President’s office are monitoring the issue which was an outcome of the summit meeting. Para 5 appears to be an overreaction.”

Parrikar added, “Def Sec may resolve issue/matter in consultation with Pr. Sec to PM.”

As pointed out by many commentators, Parrikar’s reply, written over a month after the ministry’s note, supports the widely-held belief that the Defence Minister himself was kept out of the loop by the PMO while negotiating Rafale deal.

Parrikar saying that the Defence Secretary should resolve the issue with the Principal Secretary to the PM reconfirms that the PMO was interfering with the negotiations. The minister also said that it “appears” that the PMO was “monitoring” the deal, which again, does look like a making excuses for the PMO’s alleged interference.

Parrikar’s attempt to defend the PMO’s action by calling the Defence Ministry’s objections an “overreaction” casts serious aspersions on his own role. Instead of taking the matter seriously and resolving or reporting the issue, Parrikar merely asks the defence secretary to “resolve the issue/matter” with the Principal Secretary to the PMO.

Many have pointed out that the government has scored a “self-goal” by releasing Parrikar’s notings. Considering the Modi government told the Supreme Court that it was the seven-member MoD team that was solely negotiating the deal, these serious revelations about the PMO’s interference suggest that the Modi government and the Prime Minister lied to the Supreme Court and the Indian public.

Also Read: Rafale Parallel Negotiations By PMO Weakened India’s Negotiating Team: Defence Ministry’s Note

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