Congress latches on to another report on Rafale, says Anil Ambani knew about MoU two weeks before Parrikar did

  • The Congress party has alleged that Narendra Modi's 'surprise' announcement on Rafale deal was an open secret to Anil Ambani's Reliance Group

  • Congress leader Kapil Sibal, on Tuesday, tweeted out the excerpts of an email trail, which indicates that the French government, European aircraft manufacturer Airbus, and Ambani were well aware that a Memorandum of Understanding was to be signed

  • Congress also alleged that Ambani knew about the upcoming Rafale deal two weeks before even then defence minister Manohar Parrikar heard about it

Stepping up its attack following another investigative report on Rafale deal, the Congress party has now alleged that Narendra Modi's 'surprise' announcement on a government-to-government contract on the defence deal was an open secret to Anil Ambani's Reliance Group.

Congress leader Kapil Sibal, on Tuesday, tweeted out the excerpts of an email trail, which indicates that the French government, European aircraft manufacturer Airbus, and Ambani were well aware that a memorandum of understanding was to be signed in the upcoming prime ministerial visit, while the rest of India was clueless about any such development. In the quoted emails, Ambani’s meeting was described by industry advisor Christophe Salomon to the then French defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian as "confidential and planned as you can imagine with very short notice."

In fact, in a press briefing just before Modi's visit, then foreign secretary S Jaishankar claimed that the defence deal was "on a different track" and that India does not mix up "leadership level visits with deep details of ongoing defence contract", essentially denying a possibility of any major breakthrough or developments.

"In terms of Rafale, my understanding is that there are discussions underway between the French company, our Ministry of Defence, the HAL which is involved in this. These are ongoing discussions. These are very technical, detailed discussions. We do not mix up leadership level visits with deep details of ongoing defence contracts. That is on a different track. A leadership visit usually looks at big picture issues even in the security field," Jaishankar told a press gathering on 8 April, 2015.

However, merely two days later on 10 April, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took everyone by surprise by announcing that India would buy 36 of the fighter planes in flyaway condition under a government-to-government deal, completely setting aside the protracted negotiations to buy 126 fighter aircraft by the previous UPA government. Meanwhile, Sibal's tweet also alleged that Ambani made a 'secret' visit to Drian’s office and held discussions with the minister's top advisors even before Modi's official tour had started.    

The Congress party also upped the ante from its own Twitter handle, alleging that Ambani knew about the upcoming Rafale deal two weeks before even then defence minister Manohar Parrikar came to know about it. The party also pointed fingers at the timing of inception of Ambani's Reliance Defence, suggesting that the company was founded with the knowledge that an upcoming deal with the French government could benefit the new company. Reliance Defence was incorporated on 28 March, 2015 the same week as Ambani's meeting with the French officials and merely 13 days prior to the announcement of the deal.

The Congress party quoted a report in The Indian Express, which clearly states that Ambani met Drian’s top advisors almost a fortnight before Modi announced the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft with an offset contract, which eventually went on to benefit the newly-forged Reliance Defence.

According to the newspaper, the meeting was attended by Le Drian’s special advisor Jean-Claude Mallet; Salomon; and his technical advisor for industrial affairs, Geoffrey Bouquot. Subsequently, Ambani was also part of the prime minister's delegation during the France visit.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi at a press conference said that the prime minister should be charged with treason for revealing a State secret to a businessman allowing him to profit from the deal.

"If there were only two people in India who knew about the deal, it is anybody's guess that who could have told whom about the deal," Rahul said, hinting that the prime minister himself shared the specifics of the government-to-government negotiations with Ambani. "If this is true then the prime minister is in violation of official secrets act. Criminal action must be initiated immediately," Rahul said.

Read Live updates on Rafale controversy here

Updated Date: Feb 12, 2019 12:16:53 IST