New Delhi (Sputnik) — India's Ministry of Defence (MoD) in 2015 objected to "parallel negotiations" conducted by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) with France when the two countries were discussing the Rafale jet deal.
The ministry officials, in a note dated 24 November 2015, had sought to alert the then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar of the parallel negotiations, a report by Indian news daily The Hindu reveals.
— The Hindu (@the_hindu) February 7, 2019
"We may advise PMO that any officers who are not part of the Indian negotiating team may refrain from having parallel parlays [parleys] with the officers of the French Government", a note said, going on to suggest that "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", excerpts of the note read, as published by The Hindu.
Reacting to the development, the opposition Congress Party has demanded an investigation into the matter by a joint parliamentary committee.
"We have been saying this for more than a year that the Prime Minister is directly involved in the Rafale scam…It is absolutely black and white that the Prime Minister himself had been carrying a parallel negotiation with the French", Rahul Gandhi, president of the Congress Party, said while addressing the media on Friday morning.
For more than a year, we've been saying that PM is directly involved in Rafale scam. Today it is clear that PM himself had been carrying out a parallel negotiation: Congress President @RahulGandhi#PakdaGayaModi pic.twitter.com/e1FMKAQSYm— Congress (@INCIndia) February 8, 2019
Rubbishing the opposition's claims, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that the French official was only referring to "periodic enquiries" by the PMO on the deal.
"They are flogging a dead horse. Periodical enquiries by the PMO cannot be construed as interference", Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in a suo-motu statement in parliament on Friday at noon.
She charged the opposition with playing into the hands of multinational companies and vested interests and not working in the interests of the Indian Air Force. The delivery of the Rafale fighter jet is scheduled to begin from September this year.