Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Rafale controversy: What India Today RTI queries revealed about HAL and Dassault 'negotiations'

The controversy over the Narendra Modi government’s decision to purchase 36 Rafale fighter jet aircraft from the French company Dassault Aviation has been dominating India’s political discourse for the last several months.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the main Opposition party Congress are at loggerheads over the deal. According to the Congress, the government has violated procedure and bought aircraft at a price which is three times higher than what the Manmohan Singh government had negotiated.
The Congress has also accused the Modi government of ‘gifting’ offsets to the tune of 3.9 billion euros to Reliance Defence — a company that has no experience of making jets or defence equipment and in the process inflicted massive losses on Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

On September 23, the Congress released a video featuring Dassault Aviation chairman Eric Trappier. The party claims the video was shot on March 25, 2015, just 17 days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the new Rafale deal.
The purported video shows Trappier talking about responsibility sharing on the Rafale contract in the presence of Air Force former chief Arup Raha and HAL chief KL Raju. 
The Congress has claimed that the video is proof of the fact that Dassault and HAL had almost finalised the agreement.

To explore this aspect and HAL’s role in the deal, India Today filed a series of Right to Information queries with the public sector undertaking (PSU).

The question India Today asked:

a) What kind of understanding HAL had with Dassault Aviation regarding Rafale fighter jets?

b) Did HAL chairman visit the Dassault facility in March 2015?

In response to the first question, HAL said, “HAL is not party to Rafale procurement”.

Dismissing the Congress' charge, the PSU said, “The chairman of HAL did not visit the Dassault facility in March 2015.”
03/12/18 Ashok Upadhyay/Daily O