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Analysis

Updated on: Wednesday, November 10, 2021, 11:34 PM IST

FPJ Edit: Rafale deal - Mediaport revelation necessitates inquiry to identify, punish bribe-takers in the name of India

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The Bofors and Rafale deals have one thing in common. In the case of the former, it was Swedish Radio which reported first that a bribe was paid to Indian politicians, bureaucrats and middlemen by the Swedish gun manufacturer in a deal worth $1.4 billion. Nobody questioned the utility of the 410 field Howitzer guns India purchased. They played a significant role in the Kargil war. In the case of the Rafale deal under which 36 fighter aircraft were bought, a French media company, Mediaport, has reported that a bribe of €7.5 million was paid to middlemen by aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation through some firms in Mauritius between 2007 and 2012.

When the Rafale deal was struck on September 23, 2016, mainly at the initiative of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Congress had alleged that kickbacks were involved. However, the party could not come up with any evidence whatsoever to pin down the government. The Supreme Court also refused to intervene, forcing the Opposition to sulk on the sidelines. In the meantime, the aircraft proved itself a deterrent in the recent showdown India had with China in the Leh sector. Nobody, not even the Congress, questions the usefulness of Rafale to strengthen India’s air defence.

The question is whether a bribe was paid to strike the deal. Mediaport even specifies the amount paid. Now, there is a full-fledged war of words between the Congress and the BJP. The ruling party has called the Indian National Congress (INC) as an ‘I Need Commission’ party. What lends credence to the BJP’s attack is that the period when the bribe of Rs 65 crore was paid was between 2007 and 2012 when the Congress was in power at the Centre. The deal was struck two years after the Modi government came to power in 2014.

One possible scenario is that commission was collected from the French company when the negotiations for purchase of 126 Medium Multiple Combat Aircraft were initiated. The Manmohan Singh government wasted nearly seven years without buying a single aircraft. The Congress also has a point — why does the government not order an inquiry into the kickbacks paid by Dassault Aviation? The slugfest over Bofors cost the nation enormously, yielding precious little. Nonetheless, the Mediaport revelation necessitates an inquiry to identify and punish the persons who took the bribe in the name of the nation.

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Published on: Thursday, November 11, 2021, 02:30 AM IST
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