Rafale row: Manish Tewari tweets 'page one' of dissent note, highlights MoD claim that Indian position was 'weakened' by PMO

Congress leader Manish Tewari on Saturday published on Twitter what is allegedly the first page of the dissent note that the defence ministry had sent in 2015 to the Prime Minister's Office, expressing reservations to the latter holding 'parallel discussions' in negotiating the Rafale fighter jets deal with France.

FP Staff February 09, 2019 15:59:31 IST
Rafale row: Manish Tewari tweets 'page one' of dissent note, highlights MoD claim that Indian position was 'weakened' by PMO
  • Tewari on Saturday sought to train eyes firmly back to the letter and highlighted the fact that on its first page was the assertion that the parallel negotiations were detrimental to Indian interests

  • Tewari also asked on Twitter whether Manohar Parrikar's note at the bottom of the letter was a lie

  • Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday debunked all the claims of the Prime Minister's intervention in negotiating prices

Congress leader Manish Tewari on Saturday published on Twitter what is allegedly the first page of the dissent note that the defence ministry had sent in 2015 to the Prime Minister's Office, expressing reservations to the latter holding "parallel discussions" in negotiating the Rafale fighter jets deal with France. The portion tweeted by Tewari contains a straightforward assertion by the defence ministry that the PMO's involvement had "weakened the position taken by the Indian Negotiating Team."

Rafale row Manish Tewari tweets page one of dissent note highlights MoD claim that Indian position was weakened by PMO

File image of Congress leader Manish Tewari. PTI

Controversy surrounding the note raged through Friday as a report on The Hindu published the last page of the 2015 letter. Armed with the report, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi had organised a press conference slamming Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Later in the day, ANI tweeted what was allegedly a "complete" version of the same letter, containing then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar's acknowledgement that the "PMO and French President's office (were) monitoring the progress of the issue".

While questions arose on why the newspaper had cropped the original letter, focus failed to shift from the fact that even Parrikar's note did not deny that the PMO had indeed been playing a role in the negotiations.

Tewari on Saturday sought to train eyes firmly back to the letter and highlighted the fact that on its first page was the assertion that the "parallel negotiations" were detrimental to Indian interests.

"Page one of note Nirmala Sitharaman did not put out through Poodle Media. Read first seven lines of paragraph four. Ministry of Defence says discussions between French President's Diplomatic Adviser and Javed Ashraf, joint secretary to the PMO, are parallel negotiations that are detrimental to our Interests? Whose interests was PMO fronting for? Not India's," says Tewari's tweet.

Rafale row Manish Tewari tweets page one of dissent note highlights MoD claim that Indian position was weakened by PMO

The portion of the dissent note sent by the Ministry of Defence to the Prime Minister's Office in 2015, that was tweeted by Congress's Manish Tewari on Saturday. Twitter/@ManishTewari

He ostensibly referred to ANI as "poodle media", probably for publishing the full letter on Friday. The Congress party has earlier questioned the news agency's credibility, with Rahul calling its group editor "pliable" over her interview with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The "first seven lines of paragraph four" that Tewari highlights, read, "The discussions between Diplomatic Adviser to the French Defence Minister and Joint Secretary to PM tantamount to parallel negotiations while the Indian Negotiating Team constituted by the Ministry of Defence is undertaking the process of formal negotiations with the French side. Such parallel negotiations may be detrimental to our interests as the French side may take advantage of same by interpreting such discussions to their benefit and weakening the position taken by Indian Negotiating Team. This has precisely happened in this case." The highlighted portions are those that were underlined by Tewari.

Tewari also asked on Twitter whether Manohar Parrikar's note at the bottom of the letter was "a lie". "Read paragraph four and noting together. If the PMO and French President's office were only monitoring negotiations, how come in the final deal, sovereign bank guarantee became comfort letter...Exactly what (had) PMO promised French?" he wrote.

On Friday, then defence secretary G Mohan Kumar, who was one of the signatories of the letter, had said that the ministry had only issued the dissent note over the sovereign guarantee aspect of the negotiations. Speaking to ANI, Kumar sought to clarify that the dissent had nothing to do with the pricing of the fighter jets.

However, even that became a bone of contention as experts and Opposition questioned the government as to why it did not insist on a sovereign guarantee from France, rather than settling for a letter of intent.

Meanwhile, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday debunked all the claims of the Prime Minister's intervention in negotiating prices and said the monitoring activities of the PMO could not be considered interference.

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