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Rafale Scam: NSA Ajit Doval was Illegally Negotiating the Rs 59,000 Crore Deal with Paris

Doval’s unconstitutional interference in a sensitive process which led to an exemption from Sovereign Guarantee has been highlighted by the defence ministry.

In a startling revelation which is bound to make charges of illegality and wrongdoing stronger in the Rs 59,000 crore Rafale deal signed by Modi government with France, Defence Ministry documents show that National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval was illegally negotiating with France when the Internal Negotiating Team (INT) of the defence ministry was only mandated to do so.

Lawyer Prashant Bhushan raised this question on Twitter when he posted the note of the Air Acquisition Wing of the Defence Ministry of 23 August 2016, a day before Modi-led Cabinet Committee on Security approved the Inter-government agreement with France. The note clearly shows that Doval was negotiating with the French side about the Rafale deal on 12 and 13 January 2016 in Paris.

Various ministers of Modi government have since claimed that Rafale negotiation with France was handled only by INT, which was headed by the Deputy Chief of the Indian Air Force (IAF). They have in fact trotted the IAF officials in a sordid attempt to defend the controversial deal but their claim has been busted by this note of the defence ministry.

As per rules, the NSA, an advisor to the PMO – and was not even a member of the CCS in 2016 – cannot take part in the negotiations. Even the defence minister or any bureaucrat who is not part of the INT does not take part in the negotiations in a defence deal – the defence minister only opines when the INT refers a matter to the Defence Acquisition Committee chaired by him.

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The NSA’s direct involvement in Rafale negotiations is blatantly illegal and points to an extraneous interest on the part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This fits in with the widespread belief that Modi has been the prime mover behind the deal, which is embroiled in corruption and wrongdoing.

Doval’s illegal and unconstitutional interference in a sensitive, legal process dealing with Rs 59,000 crore of public money is further shown by a note made by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on 07 March 2016. The note states clearly that the NSA recommended that India can forego a Sovereign or Bank Guarantee from France in the Rafale deal, even though this was against the considered views of the Law Ministry and Defence Ministry.

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NSA Doval’s illegal interference and unconstitutional involvement in the Rafale deal deserves a criminal investigation. It points to a lack of respect for the law of the land by the person many consider to be the most powerful official in the Modi Government. It becomes thus even more important that Doval is held to account; it is up to the Supreme Court to take notice and act.

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