NEW DELHI: A fresh controversy broke out on Monday over the anti-corruption clause in the Rafale fighter deal after a newspaper report suggested that the Modi government had dropped the crucial provision before finalising the deal with France. However, news agency ANI quoting government documents claimed that the changes in the inter-governmental agreement were made by the Congress-led UPA government in 2013.
According to the newspaper report, the Indian government made “major and unprecedented concessions” in the €7.87-billion Rafale deal. It stated that critical provisions for anti-corruption penalties and making payments through an escrow account were dropped days before the signing of the IGA.
It claimed that the official documents revealed that the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) chaired by the then defence minister Manohar Parrikar met in September 2016 and “ratified and approved” eight changes in the IGA, supply protocols, offset contracts and offset schedules.
However, ANI reported that the policy for signing inter-governmental agreements without classically following the standard operating procedure (SOP) or standard contract document (SCD) was laid down by the previous UPA government.
Quoting sources, ANI said the Indian negotiating team which firmed up the deal for procurement of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft from French company Dassault through an inter-governmental agreement was only following the policy which was laid down by the erstwhile UPA government.
Rafale Deal: Modi Government followed UPA’s policy on inter-government agreements, provisions had come into place w… https://t.co/izcevRYU4M— ANI Digital (@ani_digital) 1549864773000
According to the documents shared by ANI, Clause 71 of the Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) approved in 2013 said, "There may be occasions when procurements would have to be done from friendly foreign countries which may be necessitated due to geo-strategic advantages that are likely to accrue to our country. Such procurements would not classically follow the standard procurement procedure (SPP) and the standard contract document but would be based on mutually agreed provisions by the governments of both the countries. Such procurements will be done based on an Inter-Governmental Agreement after clearance from CFA.”
The Clause 72 said, "In cases of large value acquisition, especially that requiring product support over a long period of time, it may be advisable to enter into a separate Inter Governmental Agreement (if not already covered under an umbrella agreement covering all cases) with the government of the country from which the equipment is proposed to be procured after the requisite inter-ministerial consultation. Such an Inter-Governmental Agreement is expected to safeguard the interests of the government of India and should also provide for assistance of the foreign government in case the contract(s) runs into an unforeseen problem."
Reacting to the report, Congress president Rahul Gandhi accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of facilitating “loot”.
In a tweet, Rahul attacked the Modi government over the reported removal of anti-corruption clause and said, “NoMo anti-corruption clause. The Chowkidar himself opened the door to allow Anil Ambani to steal 30,000 crore from the IAF (Indian Air Force).”
Former Union finance minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram alsoA aired similar sentiments expressed and lashed out at the Modi government over the anti-corruption clause and related provisions.
The Rafale deal is unravelling faster than the government thought.— P. Chidambaram (@PChidambaram_IN) 1549850052000
He said the Rafale deal was unravelling faster than the government thought. First, it was the loading of the India Specific Enhancement costs on 36 aircraft instead of 126 aircraft giving a bonanza to Dassault. Then it was the revelation that 'parallel negotiations' were being carried on by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) undermining the efforts of the Indian Negotiating Team, he alleged.
The government and the BJP are yet to react to the charges made by the Congress leaders over the newspaper report.