Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Defence Ministry Complained of PMO Undermining India’s Position With Parallel Talks on Rafale: Report

As the report gave more ammunition to the opposition against the government in Lok Sabha, current defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman accused The Hindu of biased reporting, saying it should have published Parrikar’s response as well.

 

New Delhi, Feb. 8: The Prime Minister’s Office ran parallel negotiations with France even as the Defence Ministry was working out the Rafale fighter jets deal, ultimately weakening India’s position on the negotiating table, a report in The Hindu said on Friday citing an official note.

According to the report, the note dated November 24, 2015 was sent to then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and recorded defence secretary G. Mohan Kumar’s opposition to the alleged interference of the PMO in the thick of hectic negotiations.

“… such parallel discussions by the PMO has weakened the negotiating position of MoD and Indian Negotiating 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,” the note, reproduced by The Hindu, said.

“In case the PMO is not confident about the outcome of negotiations being carried out by the MoD, a revised modality of negotiations to be led by PMO at appropriate level may be adopted in the case,” it added.

The note was prepared by SK Sharma, Deputy Secretary (Air-II) and carried file notings by G. Mohan Kumar who wrote, “It is desirable that such discussions be avoided by the PMO as it undermines our negotiating position seriously.”

As the report gave more ammunition to the opposition against the government in Lok Sabha, current defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman accused The Hindu of biased reporting, saying it should have published Parrikar’s response as well.

Congress chief Rahul Gandhi claimed vindication, saying the Supreme Court judgment on Rafale deal is also now under question.

“It is an open and shut case,” Gandhi said, mounting a fresh attack on the government. “The government can use the law against everyone, including Robert Vadra and P Chidambaram, but must answer questions on the Rafale deal.”

Parrikar’s reply to the note was accessed by news agency ANI later on Friday, in which the then defence minister asked Mohan Kumar to resolve the matter in consultation with the principal secretary to the PM.

(With agency inputs)

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