The Rafale deal is not just about corruption anymore. It is now a case of “treason”, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi said today as his attack over the controversial Indo-French deal to purchase 36 Rafale jets got sharper and more strident.
To justify his claim that this was a case of “treason”, Rahul Gandhi claimed to have an email that “proved” Reliance Defence’s Anil Ambani knew about the Rafale deal even before it signed.
Congress leader Kapil Sibal posted an image of that email. That email was sent on March 28, 2015 — a few days before PM Narendra Modi visited France.
The email is purportedly from an Airbus (a European aerospace company) executive who writes that he has had a telephonic conversation with an aide of the then French defence minister.
The Airbus executive quotes the aide as saying that Anil Ambani had visited the French defence minister’s office where he mentioned a “MoU” [memorandum of understanding] that was under preparation and that would be signed during PM Modi’s then-upcoming visit.
The MoU in question is supposedly the one that was announced by PM Modi on April 10, 2015 during his French visit. PM Modi announced that India intended to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets from Dassault Aviation in a flyaway condition.
This — Anil Ambani allegedly being in the know of the MoU — was a violation of the Official Secrets Act, Rahul Gandhi said today. “This is not a case of corruption anymore… this is a case of treason… PM Modi has done what a spy does,” Rahul Gandhi said.
What is the Rafale deal?
The deal to purchase Rafale fighter jets to bolster the Indian Air Force’s capabilities was born under the Manmohan Singh-led United Progressive Alliance government. That deal was to buy 126 Rafale jets — 18 off these would be in a flyaway condition while the rest would be built in India.
The Narendra Modi government, citing the extremely slow pace of progress of the UPA deal, scrapped that contract and chose to buy 36 Rafale jets in a flyaway condition to urgently meet the Indian Air Force’s shortage in aircraft.
In lieu of the investment Dassault Aviation, the maker of the Rafale jets, would have made under the UPA deal, the NDA government asked the company to make “offset” investments in India.
Now, one of the companies chosen by Dassault to fulfil its offset obligations is Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence, with which it has set up a manufacturing plant in Nagpur.
The Congress party has alleged that Anil Ambani being chosen was an example of crony capitalism and that PM Narendra Modi was personally involved in pressuring Dassault to choose Anil Ambani as an offset partner. The government, Dassault and France have all denied the charges.