PMO not a party to Rafale deal, says former defence secretary

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Thiruvananthapuram: Giving a clean chit to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's office, former Defence Secretary G Mohankumar - during whose tenure the Rafale deal was finalised - said on Friday that the deal was a clean one and the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) had no role in it.

Mohankumar said this to Manorama News after an English daily came out with his file notings and the Congress-led opposition took it up in the Lok Sabha during the day.

Mohankumar, who hails from Kerala, said when a deal of this nature takes place between two countries, there is nothing wrong even if the PMs take part in the negotiations.

He also said according to his knowledge the deal was transparent and that noting down the observations regarding the discussions that had been happening for many years is common practice. According to him, the present controversies are purely political.

Even though the Rafale deal talks commenced during the UPA tenure, it was finalised during Mohankumar's tenure as the defence secretary.

former defence minister A K Antony
former defence minister A K Antony

He also said that the PMO was not involved in deciding the price of the Rafale flights.

However, former defence minister A K Antony termed the PMO's involvement in defence procurements as 'shocking'.

Antony dismissed Mohankumar's claim that the notes made on the file were not regarding the pricing of the fighter jets. “His notes are very clear, the report which said PMO was involved in negotiating the price is very much true,” Antony said.

Air Marshal dismisses 'leaked note'

Air Marshal (retd.) S B P Sinha, who headed the Indian Negotiating Team that finalized the Rafale contract, on Friday dismissed the controversial leaked note, claiming interference by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) in the deal, as mischievous.

Air Marshal (retd.) S B P Sinha
Air Marshal (retd.) S B P Sinha. Photo:IANS

Air Marshal Sinha told IANS that he has never seen the note which has nothing to do with the negotiating team. "It was, at best, an internal deliberation in the Ministry of Defence (MoD) which was settled there," he said, expressing surprise that such a document has been used to malign the contract.

Air Marshal Sinha was the deputy chief of air staff at that time. He said all the papers related to the contract was in the Indian Air Force (IAF) files. The deputy secretary who initiated the said note was never part of the process.

"I saw the note for the first time today and that too in an encrypted form where the decision of the RM (Raksha Mantri) is concealed. Unlike other procurements. This (Rafale) was being headed by me. All meetings were being held at air headquarters. All the files with respect to the Indian negotiating team were air headquarter files. All the minutes of the meetings are in air headquarters file. This (the one carrying the note) is an MoD file. It was started there and closed and shut there," he said.

(With inputs from IANS)

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