New Delhi: The 7.878 billion-euro deal for 36 Rafale fighter jets is “clean”, and there was no interference by the Prime Minister’s Office on the issue of pricing, the former defence secretary in the eye of the storm has told ThePrint.
According to a report in The Hindu, G. Mohan Kumar had “strongly objected” to the PMO holding “parallel negotiations” with the French government on the Rafale deal.
But the retired official, who is now based in Kerala, told ThePrint over the phone: “What I am seeing is an over-reaction to my noting. It is sad that a free and frank discussion taking place within the ministry has been blown up to this level.
‘MoD works differently’
Kumar didn’t deny writing the note, but clarified that his comments were regarding the issue of a bank guarantee and not pricing.
“Yes, I did write the note. A note was brought to me and I put in my free and frank views, which was encouraged by then-defence minister Manohar Parrikar. The issue was with regard to the guarantee by the French government. MoD works differently and we want to keep everything within. We didn’t want anybody else talking,” he said.
In his note, Kumar had said: “RM (Raksha Mantri) may pl. see. It is desirable that such discussions be avoided by the PMO as it undermines our negotiating position seriously.”
When pointed out that the words he had used seemed a bit harsh, signalling that he felt very strongly about the issue, Kumar agreed that they were harsh.
“It was in the early stages of the negotiation, and, as I said, MoD works differently,” Kumar said.
‘Deal is absolutely clean’
Asked if he can categorically say whether the Rafale deal is clean or not, Kumar shot back: “Where is the doubt? The deal is absolutely clean since the entire pricing negotiations were carried out by the MoD and Indian Air Force officials.”
He went on to say that at no point did the PMO interfere in the price negotiations, though he did admit that the PMO wanted the deal to be fast-tracked.
“That was the style of the PMO. Things had to be done fast,” he said.