Rafale recap: 25 points you need to remember every time Modi, Rahul are at it

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Rafale recap: 25 points you need to remember every time Modi, Rahul are at it

A look into the timeline of the Rafale jet deal controversy which continues to brew. The latest revelation in the deal is that the government held parallel negotiations with the French.

The Rafale deal is a controversy that keeps on giving. A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi defended the deal in Parliament, explosive details have come forth in the deal for 36 Rafale medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) in flyaway condition.

An expose by Indian daily The Hindu has revealed that the Modi government held negotiations with its French counterpart parallel to the ones held by the Indian Defence Ministry.

A Defence Ministry (MoD) note dated November 24, 2015, said "parallel discussions" by the Prime Minister's Office had "weakened the negotiating position of the MoD and [the] Indian negotiating team."

The deal has come under intense political scrutiny as the Opposition continues to accuse the government of favouring Anil Ambani-owned Reliance Defence, who had been signed on as the offset partner by Rafale jet manufacturer Dassault Aviation, even though Ambani's company had no previous experience.

Here is a timeline of the controversial Rafale deal:

  • 2007: The UPA government releases tenders for 126 MMRCA fighters, based on the demand by the Indian Air Force.
  • January 2012: French company, Dassault Aviation makes the lowest bids for their aircraft Rafale. According to conditions, 126 jets required, of which 18 to be imported in fly-away condition. Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) supposed to manufacture remaining 108 jets with assistance from Dassault.
  • 2014: HAL and Dassault sign a workshare agreement. Negotiations carried out over pricing, technology, weapons system, customisation and maintenance. No final UPA deal because it was never finalised.
  • April 2015: Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits Paris. Announces government's decision to buy 36 Rafale fighters in a flyaway condition. In June, defence ministry officially withdraws the 126 aircraft deal tender.
  • January 2016: French President François Hollande visits India on the occasion of Republic Day. A memorandum of understanding on the purchase of Rafale jets signed between India and France.
  • India and France sign a final deal for 36 Rafale jets for €7.87 billion (approximately Rs 59,000 crore). According to this deal, the delivery of jets would start from September 2018.
  • October 2016: Business tycoon Anil Ambani officially enters the picture. Anil Ambani's Reliance Defence and Dassault Aviation announce joint venture.
  • Fast forward to 2018: First real blow to Centre comes when former French president Francois Hollande reveals that he had no choice in selecting the Indian offset partner and the name of Reliance was given by the Indian side to French publication Mediapart.
  • Hollande's interview adds fuel to the fire in controversy. India's Ministry of Defence issues statements reiterating that neither government was involved in the commercial decision. Dassault Aviation issues a statement claiming it was Dassault's decision to choose Reliance.
  • The Congress alleges Modi government signed the contract with France at a much higher price than negotiated during the UPA rule. Rahul Gandhi and other Opposition leaders demand government reveal the price of Rafale deal. Government says price disclosure covered under secrecy clause of the deal. Rahul Gandhi claims that he had been told "personally" by former French President Francois Hollande that the Modi government could reveal the price of Rafale without jeopardising the defence deal.
  • The Opposition steps up its attack on the Modi government regarding the deal. Congress started alluding to PM Modi as the corrupt guard ("chowkidar chor hai").
  • Four petitions filed before the Supreme Court raising questions about the pricing, choice of Reliance as the offset partner, as well as the process followed in finalisation of the Rafale deal.
  • November 2018: A bench headed by CJI Ranjan Gogoi reserves verdict in the case after extensive arguments. During the arguments, the Centre files details of the pricing and the process followed during the deal in a sealed cover before the court, and had claimed that the details of the deal were being kept secret "in the national interest".
  • December 14: The Supreme Court says that it found nothing wrong with the Rafale deal and dismisses all PILs demanding a court-monitored probe into it. A bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi says that it was "satisfied that there is no occasion to doubt the process [of signing the Rafale deal]".
  • Opposition alleges that the government misled the Supreme Court by stating that the pricing of Rafale deal has already by been examined by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) and the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). Government says there was only a "typing error", moves apex court seeking a correction in the order.
  • Proceedings disrupted multiple times in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha as Opposition demands answers from government on Rafale deal.
  • January 1, 2019: PM Modi begins the new year by giving an interview to news agency ANI, says Congress is trying to throw muck on him even though the party has nothing to prove him wrong. The PM hails the SC verdict, accusing the Congress of wanting to weaken defence forces.
  • Not to be left behind, Congress starts the new year with a bang. Claims that it has audio recordings that show a Goa BJP minister saying that former defence minister Manohar Parrikar possesses all files related to the Rafale jet deal.
  • January 2: Rahul Gandhi takes Rafale to Parliament. Asks permission to play Goa tape in Lok Sabha. Union minister Arun Jaitley responds to Gandhi in house, says "There are some people who have a natural dislike for truth". Ruckus in Parliament as paper planes fly all around!
  • January 4: Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman launches fiery attack on Congress in Parliament. "There are defence dealings and there are dealings in defence. We are involved in dealings in defence because national security is priority for us," she says.
  • January 9: PM Modi redirects Rafale deal heat on Congress president Rahul Gandhi based on reports that Agusta middleman Christian Michel was also lobbying for another fighter jet that was competing against France's Rafale.
  • January 10: A group of HAL employees meet Rahul Gandhi. Allege conspiracy by the NDA government to "bleed and shut down" the state-run aerospace major. Accuse Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman of "attempting to build a false narrative" that HAL is incapable of building the Rafale fighter jet.
  • January 29: Rahul Gandhi meets ailing Manohar Parrikar in Goa. Says former Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar told him that Prime Minister Narendra Modi kept him in the dark about changes in the Rafale deal. Parrikar refutes claim, says "Nothing whatsoever about Rafale was even mentioned in your meeting with me."
  • February 7: Speaking in the Lok Sabha, PM Modi says Congress does not want the Air Force to be strong. He questions whether it was bidding for a company.
  • February 8: New report reveals Ministry of Defence objected in 2015 to the PMO's "parallel negotiations" with France on the Rafale defence deal. Rahul Gandhi calls it "black and white proof of corruption". Nirmala Sitharaman hits back, says Defence Ministry's reply to 2015 note should also be published.