India’s chief negotiator for the Rafale fighter deal Air Marshal (retd) SBP Sinha on Friday asserted that the PMO had never intervened in the negotiations and alleged that a Defence Ministry note has been cited by a newspaper to “malign the excellent procurement” by “concealing facts”.
Sinha was dismissive about the Defence Ministry note which was cited by the newspaper to allege that the PMO was holding “parallel negotiations” with the French side, saying it was prepared by an officer who was not part of the Indian negotiating team.
The PMO never intervened in the negotiations, he told ANI, adding the letter itself is a clear proof of no intervention.
"There are attempts being made to malign the excellent procurement that the government of India has initiated to procure. It was very surprising for me to know that in the article printed today, a note within the MoD has been used to malign this procurement by concealing facts," Sinha said.
He said the note cited by the newspaper does not bear the remarks of the Defence Minister.
Talking about the note, Sinha said, “It was created by S K Sharma, who was not a part of the Indian negotiation team... This letter never reached the negotiation team meetings or to me. It is not even mentioned in the minutes of the meeting which we recorded after each sitting got over.”
He went on to add that there is no sovereign guarantee or bank guarantee, “then why is it being selectively targeted in this case.”
The French government has already “given a written assurance, called the ‘Letter of Comfort’, saying they will sort out all problems that are there in this contract and that is what is expected out of the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP),” Sinha said.
"I can assure the nation that this is one of the finest procurements and one of the hardest negotiated deals wherein we have brought down the prices by 9% on the basic aircraft and further a very high amount on the overall deal,” the chief negotiator added.
The then French Prime Minister had written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying that their government would fully back the obligations made by their firms in the contract.