Rafale Lies – it is getting murkier

The blatant lies, obfuscation and arbitrary last refuge in “National Security” from the Government on Rafale Scam only makes it murkier. If you weren’t sure about any wrongdoing before, you should be now.

Saaf Baat broke the story of the Rafale scam back in Oct 2016. About an year later, the issue finally started getting noticed by opposition. After the questions kept getting asked despite initial media blackout on it, the government finally decided to respond via a press statement/conference by the Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Nov 17, 2017.

If you were hoping for some real clarifications, you would be disappointed. The honourable minister put on her “angry face” mask, and with nostrils flaring and all, kept attacking the previous governments with whataboutery and rhetoric, instead of answering the immediate and real questions on the Rafale deal done by her PM.

Nevertheless, she did promise a complete transparency on the cost breakdown.

We waited, eagerly.

Last week, the nation learnt, it was an empty promise. The Rafale Scam has decidedly taken a murky turn. If there was no scam and all price increases were justifiable, why lie about them?

The “official” Press statement of Defence Minister

On 7th Feb 2018, the government released an official press statement produced below. Not only the statement fails to provide any factual details about the questions raised by opposition and others, it aims to fool the people of India with blatant lies and purposeful manipulations of facts. Let us have a look at this long list of Lies.

Lie 1: “Unfounded” allegations

Unfounded allegations are being made regarding the 2016 Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) to procure 36 Rafale aircraft in fly-away condition from France. This would normally not have merited a response but for the serious damage being caused by the misleading statements, sought to be repeatedly perpetrated on a serious matter of national security.

Fact: Just this year Qatar bought 12 Rafale Jets from France at around Euro 1 Bn, Malaysia was buying 18-24 jets for $2 Bn, (but shelved its plans). So when PM Modi purchases 36 Rafale Jets at Euro 7.8 Bn, there are more than Euro 4.8 Bn worth of foundations to question PM Modi’s deal.

PM Modi’s conduct to scrap the original MMRCA tender citing dubious excuses and Defence Ministry’s fact-less responses (including present response) along with an attempt to hide behind “National Security” & “Secrecy Pact” only further necessitates a thorough investigation in Rafale Deal.

Matters of serious corruption doesn’t normally merit response? Is this now “normal” in New India? When India’s highest executive is being seen as colluding with Private Businesses & Foreign Government to empty India’s coffers in a defence deal, saying “this doesn’t even warrant a response” itself is a cruel mockery of “National Security”.

Anyways, brace yourself. Put your seat-belts and helmets on, get a large pack of popcorn, the government is finally going to provide some details to silence all questions. Finally!.

Lie 2: NDA Government in 2002 took the initiative

It ought to be remembered that it was under the ten-year tenure of the previous Government at the Centre that the earlier initiative of 2002 to meet requirement of the Indian Air Force (IAF) for much needed augmentation of its fighter strength ran aground.

 

Fact: NDA Government did absolutely nothing other than receiving request from IAF for MMRCA. UPA Government had to work from scratch to finally float RFP in 2007. This took a long process of technical evaluation by the IAF, which only completed by 2011, and lowest bidder finally determined only in 2012.

Lie 3: Always Blame your predecessor

In 2012, the then Defence Minister exercised an unprecedented personal veto on the laid down institutional process then underway for procurement of 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA). All this happened when there was an alarming decline in IAF’s fighter strength.

Fact: After Dassault was declared the L1(lowest) bidder in the MMRCA deal, as compared to the L2 bidder Eurofighter Typhoon, several BJP MPs raised questions about the Dassault bid not having been the lowest one. AK Antony, instead of calling these MPs anti-national, took their objections into cognisance, and put a note on the Rafale file, that asked the officials to confirm the final negotiated price still remained the lowest one. So, the Defence Minster is deliberately misleading people by referring to this as a “Veto”.

This sounds like a repeat of the November Press statement, more time spent on blaming the previous government, than actually answering the questions being raised. But, our readers should know what the current Defence Minister is blaming his predecessor for.

Lie 4: Twist Facts – then label others for doing so

In another effort to twist facts, the Government is asked why it did not conduct negotiations with a particular company representing a competing fighter aircraft. It seems to have been conveniently forgotten that the then Government itself had rejected that company’s unsolicited offer made days after closure of the bid process, declared Rafale (DA) as the L1 bidder and had commenced negotiations with it in February 2012.

Fact: Government is totally fooling the citizens by mixing two different deals.

OK, so let us understand this. Eurofighter made an unsolicited offer to the UPA govt, when the original MMRCA deal was still alive, and the UPA government rightly rejected it, because, it was still talking to the L1 bidder.

Modi government on the other hand, scrapped the whole MMRCA deal and decided to completely change the parameters (From 126 Aircraft 18 off the shelf + 108 Build to 36 Buy off the shelf) arbitrarily for a new deal. Should it not have sought a fresh bid at least from the L2 bidder – if not inviting totally fresh tenders, considering it was an altogether fresh deal? What is wrong in asking this question? Is it not possible that Eurofighter, considered equally good by the IAF in technical trials, may have given a better bid for 36 planes?

Modi Government is saying, Since Eurofighter lost tender in one deal and UPA rejected their second offer for that same deal as per procedures, we will not consider them in any future tender forever. What if Eurofighter offers their Jets at half the price of Rafale?

More worryingly, Why doesn’t the Defence Minister of India have a better answer to this question than providing this pathetic false equivalence? Whenever anyone questions PM Modi’s dubious conduct, GoI’s standard answer is Congress did so too – never mind totally different circumstances. Is Modi trying to walk in UPA’s footsteps and failing even in doing that legally?

Lie 5: It’s an unrealistic demand now, but wasn’t when we made it

The demand that the Government disclose the details and value of the contract for the Rafale aircraft contracted in 2016 is unrealistic. [In keeping with confidentiality requirements, the UPA Government had also expressed its inability to disclose the price of various defence procurements, including in its responses to Parliament Questions].

 

Fact: The very second sentence in this very Press-note confirms that such demands were made earlier when UPA was in power. So not it is not an unrealistic demand then.

The claim that UPA government also didn’t reveal the price is also misleading. BJP propaganda has cherry-picked the few cases when the cost wasn’t revealed to suggest as if this was the “norm”, whereas there are enough examples, including cost incurred in Mirage upgrade deal with France in 2013.

Lie 6: Fig-leaf of National Security

The approximate acquisition cost of the Rafale aircraft has already been provided to the Parliament.

Provision of exact item-wise cost and other information will reveal, inter alia, details regarding the various customizations and weapons systems specially designed to augment the effectiveness and lethality of the assets, impact our military preparedness and compromise our national security.

 

Fact: Just cost break-up is asked, not the launch codes of nuclear missiles. Like we exhibit our own weapon systems on Republic Day, so does France. Every country knows what Rafales are capable of and what modifications can be effected. Dassault itself gives total information to any country interested to purchase Rafale.

It’s interesting that GoI claims Rafale is going to “design special weapons systems” for India. We will have to keep an eye on this claim. On face value, it looks like a total bluff.

Is it not true that these customizations, worth nearly 12,000 Crores are primarily for integrating the Helmet Mounted Display System (HMDS) being supplied by Elbit, a JV Partner of Mr Gautam Adani?

Lie 7: The “TOP Secret” Agreement of 2008

Such details would also come under the ambit of the security agreement signed in 2008. Thus, in not revealing the item-wise details of the contract, the Government is merely following in letter and spirit the confidentiality provisions of a bilateral India-France Agreement of 2008 signed by the previous Government.

Facts: The Defence Minister of India promised to reveal the detailed breakdown of Rafale deal back in November. Was this “secrecy agreement” itself such a top secret that even the country’s Union Defence Minister, a very senior member of the cabinet, was unaware of it barely two months ago?

It also looks a bit strange that in 2008, when the Six bidders from the MMRCA RFP were still being evaluated, and nobody knew that IAF shall be choosing Rafale of France, that Government of India signed some agreement with France beforehand, that now covers the secrecy about an agreement signed in 2016, 8 years later.

Why hasn’t the Defence Minister explicitly spelled out which specific supposed agreement with France in 2008 had provided an all encompassing confidentiality to the yet to be signed Rafale deal, finally signed in 2016? Check out this article that goes into the details of all the agreements signed between France and India during 2008. None of them appear to restrict the government from releasing this information.

Lie 8: Our deal is better because we say so – Details naheen bataayenge!

As doubts are sought to be created about the 2016 contract for 36 aircraft, it is once again strongly reiterated that the deal secured by the Government is better in terms of capability, price, equipment, delivery, maintenance, training, etc., than that notionally negotiated by the then Government in a process it could not conclude in ten years.

Facts: Deal is same, Rafale Jets are same, Present deal is inferior to original MMRCA deal in terms of Price (500 Vs 1500 Crore), Offset (HAL – not Ambani – would have been manufacturing), Delivery (2019 vs 2018), Maintenance (5 Years vs 20 years) training (same in both). Further, Present deal doesn’t included comprehensive total ToT, which was one of the main purposes of original RFP.

Also, HAL was to be benefit from 50% offset reinvestment in Original deal, in new deal PM Modi has given freedom to Dassault to select offset-partner. And surprise, Dassault uses this freedom to choose Ambani. Why give such freedom, PM Modi, when your “awesome negotiation skills” could have convinced Dassault to select HAL – with whom they had agreement on 95% details of work-sharing?

It’s laughable that MoD is accusing previous government of not having been able to conclude the original MMRCA deal for 10 years, when in the very next paragraph MoD says “The aircraft had already been evaluated successfully by IAF during 2009-10”. UPA announced Rafale L1 bidder in 2012. So they took just 2 Years, not 10. And to say that earlier government couldn’t conclude the deal, when instead of concluding the deal, Mr Modi himself scrapped it. This is just unbecoming of Government of India.

The previous BJP defence Minister Mr Parrikar had claimed that the old deal had escalated to about 700 Crores per plane. We are now paying close to 1600 Crores of public money per plane. But hey, this is national security, Dear taxpayers, we wouldn’t tell you if your hard earned tax money is being paid to enrich Mr Ambani, so that he can channel some of it to our election funds.

Lie 9: Time spent on the deal

Moreover, the present Government completed these negotiations in just about one year.

Fact: Deal was signed in Sep 2016, almost 2.5 years after this government came to power. Is the Defence Minister claiming in this press release that Negotiations were already done by April 2015? Scams are fast, deals are slow.

Lie 10: We followed the rules, we are so confident, we keep it confidential

It is also stressed once again that the procurement of 36 Rafale aircraft through an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) with France to meet the urgent need of the IAF is strictly in accordance with the Defence Procurement Procedure in all aspects including mandating, conducting and monitoring of negotiations and seeking all necessary approvals, including that of the Cabinet Committee on Security, before entering into the IGA. The aircraft had already been evaluated successfully by IAF during 2009-10.

The Defence Procurement Procedure 2013 lays down specific guidelines for when an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) route can be taken.

  • Identified in joint exercises
  • Large value that was in service in a friendly country (2nd hand)
  • Restriction from the OEM’s country for state of art equipment.
  • A long term support contract.

What scenario was applicable one for Rafale?

The foreign secretary S. Jaishankar told the press just before Mr Modi left for Paris in Apr 2015, that

“In terms of Rafale, my understanding is that there are discussions underway between the French company, our Ministry of Defence, the HAL which is involved in this. These are ongoing discussions. These are very technical, detailed discussions. We do not mix up leadership level visits with deep details of ongoing defence contracts. That is on a different track.

Even after the new deal was announced, the then Defence Minister Parrikar appeared totally clueless about it, told the press it was Mr Modi’s decision. He gave interviews to the press in April 2015 suggesting this was just an increase in the “off the shelf” buy from 18 to 36, and the remainder 90 planes were still on the cards.

And you want us to trust the government claim that all stakeholders were consulted, all procedures were followed, when Mr Modi suddenly changed the deal on its head arbitrarily?

Lie 11: Blame the predecessor (again)

It may also be noted that contrary to the impression sought, to be created by the Opposition, in the earlier proposal to procure Rafale, which ended in a stalemate, there was no provision for transfer of technology but only to manufacture under licence. The Government was unable to agree on the terms for even that in its negotiations with the vendor, resulting in the long-drawn exercise under the earlier Government ultimately turning futile.

Fact: The negotiations on the old deal that involved a Transfer of Technology to make 108 planes at HAL in India, ended when the current Government came to power. Barely a month before the Modi’s France trip, Dassault themselves had acknowledged that work-share agreement with HAL was completed. But hey, let us still blame the predecessor.

Lie 12: Just lie, who examines Government press releases anyways?

Further, no Indian Offset Partner for the 2016 deal for 36 Rafale Aircraft has been so far selected by the vendor (DA) because as per the applicable guidelines, DA is free to select the Indian Offset Partners and provide their details at the time of seeking offset credits, or one year prior to discharge of offset obligation.

Fact: OK, so the Honourable Defence Minister is not even aware of the JV that has already taken place between Dassault Aviation (DA) and Mr Ambani, back in Oct 2017. Check this press release from Dassault, dated Oct 27, 2017.

So, how much do you still trust the Defence Minister? How much shall we trust the government’s statements on the Rafale Deal?

The Secrecy Argument

The whole world knows what variant of Rafale we are buying. Anyone can go to the Dassault aviation website, and see the compatible weapons of the F3R standard of Rafale.

When the deal was announced all Media houses were blowing the trumpet about the weaponry included in it.

When the doubts were first raised about the price of the renegotiated deal, it was the BJP propaganda, its leaders, Union Ministers such as Rajyavardhan Rathore and Piyush Goyal tweeted BJP IT cell memes talking about the Meteor BVR & SCALP missiles, Thales Radar and so on, thus justifying the increased cost. Ex defence minister Parrikar gave an interview singing about the capabilities of the Helmet Mounted Display System. Any of you remember these?

And now, after having blown the trumpet themselves about the weaponry, we are being told that this is a TOP secret, and its details cannot be shared?

Our enemies themselves buy weapons from the international markets. They know the typical variants of the weapons that are compatible with Rafale, thanks to our BJP Propaganda’s own Bragging in the past, they also know what configuration we are buying.They also know the typical price these can be bought at.

So who is this secrecy from? Just the Indian public and Indian parliament?

Just today, I saw a Modi-Bhakt friend share these two articles fromthe BJP IT cell propaganda website Postcard News, the “fountainhead” of all Bhakt knowledge. They were both published on the same day, and shared widely by Bhakts on social media, without noticing any self-contradiction whatsoever, that you are blaming a person for asking the government to reveal the details, calling him names, and then you yourselves reveal, supposedly, the same details with much propaganda, and still attack the person who was demanding it.

You would think this is just some silly BJP IT cell website. but think carefully, haven’t the mainstream Godi media channels, the likes of Times Now, and Republic etc actually done the same? Instead of asking tough questions to the government, they have blatantly defended its “secrecy” argument, and then sometimes, themselves published or telecast a “sources” based story revealing the details, unofficially?

You hear a Modi speech blaming Congress for whatever they did for 70 years, and then the only excuse this Govrenment have on most issues is, “Congress did it too”. You will see Modi bhakts  and Godi Media spreading both cheerfully. The sheer Irony of the situation doesn’t get registered in their minds.

The Bhakts have been thoroughly brainwashed. The mainstream media has been largely compromised via pro-establishment journalists who just act as cheerleaders. They are never going to question the Modi government on anything, will blindly cheer everything they do, let them get away with murder.

Will you?

 

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