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MoD's note on Rafale wasn't about parallel negotiations, but parallel viewpoints: Former Defence Secretary G Mohan Kumar
Posted on: 09-02-2019 , 09:20:AM | DY365 Bureau

 picture courtesy: The Indian Express

February 9, 2019: Almost ten months before India and France inked the final agreement to purchase 36 Rafale aircraft in September 2016, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) had objected to “parallel” discussions conducted by the Prime Minister’s Office with Paris saying this “weakened the negotiating position of MoD and Indian Negotiating Team”.

According to a report Friday in The Hindu, a Defence Ministry note dated November 24, 2015, flagged the PMO’s discussions to then Defence Minister, Manohar Parrikar. In the note, then Defence Secretary G Mohan Kumar wrote: “RM may pl see. It is desirable that such discussions be avoided by the PMO as it undermines our negotiating position seriously.” RM was a reference to Raksha Mantri.

Kumar Friday told The Indian Express that the noting was not about “parallel negotiations” but about “parallel viewpoints” and that the PMO had not interfered in the final negotiations.

In the 2015 MoD noting, Kumar was responding to a note by Deputy Secretary (Air-II) S K Sharma, who wrote: “We may advise PMO that any Officers who are not part of Indian Negotiating Team may refrain from having parallel parlays (parleys) with the officers of French Government. In case the PMO is not confident about the outcome of negotiations being carried out by the MoD, a revised modality of negotiations to be led by PMO at appropriate level may be adopted in the case.”

To these concerns of the MoD, Parrikar wrote: “It appears that PMO and French president’s office are monitoring the progress of the issue which was an outcome of the summit meeting. Para 5 appears to be an over reaction. Def Sec may resolve issue/matter in consultations with Pr. Sec to P.M.” Para 5 was a reference to Sharma’s note. Parrikar’s noting was put out by news agency ANI.

The Defence Secretary from May 2015 to May 2017 when the Rafale deal was signed, Kumar Friday said the parallel discussions by the PMO on the Rafale deal had nothing to do with price.

Referring to The Hindu report that the MoD objected to the PMO undermining the Rafale negotiations, Kumar said he had written the stated note in a particular context.

“It was not about parallel negotiations, but about parallel viewpoints. We told them that there was no need for such discussions. I have written the note in that particular context. There was nothing very serious about it. It was when the negotiations started and later all issues had been settled. No interference or anything of that sort happened from the PMO in the final negotiations.’’

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