Sanjha Morcha

Decoding Rafale deal: What’s all the fuss about?

Decoding Rafale deal: What’s all the fuss about?

New Delhi, August 29

As Congress president Rahul Gandhi and Arun Jaitley engage in a social media war about India’s purchase of 36 combat jets from France for an estimated Rs 58,000 crore, here’s an explainer to help understand what the agreement was.

What is Rafale?

Rafale is a French twin-engine multi-role fighter jet designed and built by Dassault Aviation. The Rafale jets are considered one of the most potent combat jets globally.

The UPA deal

India began the process to buy a fleet of 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) in 2007 after the Defence Ministry, headed then by Congress leader AK Antony, cleared the proposal from the Indian Air Force.

The contenders for the mega deal were Lockheed Martin’s F-16s, Eurofighter Typhoon, Russia’s MiG-35, Sweden’s Gripen, Boeing’s F/A-18s and Dassault Aviation’s Rafale.

After a long process, bids were opened in December 2012 and Dassault Aviation emerged as L-1 (lowest bidder). In the original proposal, 18 planes were to be manufactured in France and 108 in India in collaboration with the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.

There were lengthy negotiations between the then UPA government and Dassault on prices and transfer of technology. The final negotiations continued till early 2014 but the deal could not go through.

Details of the negotiated price per Rafale were not officially announced, but it was suggested by the then UPA government that the size of the deal would be $10.2 billion. The Congress claimed per aircraft rate including avionics and weapons was zeroed in at Rs 526 crore (As per Euro exchange rates prevailing then).

The NDA deal

During his visit to France, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on April 10 announced India would purchase 36 Rafale jets in a government-to-government agreement.  After the announcement, questions were raised by the Opposition on how the prime minister finalised the deal without approval of the Cabinet Committee on Security.

A joint statement issued on April 10, 2015, after talks between Modi and then French President François Hollande, said they agreed to conclude an Inter-Governmental Agreement for supply of 36 Rafale jets on terms that would be better than conveyed by Dassault Aviation as part of a separate process underway.

The statement said the “aircraft and associated systems and weapons would be delivered on the same configuration as had been tested and approved by Indian Air Force, in clear reference to negotiations and testing process for the Rafale jets under the UPA government.

The final deal

India and France signed Euro 7.87-billion (Rs 59,000 crore approximately) deal on September 23, 2016, for 36 Rafale jets. The delivery of the aircraft will start from September 2019.

The deal was finalised on the basis of the procurement procedure followed under the UPA government.

The allegations

The Congress has been accusing massive irregularities in the deal, alleging that the government was procuring each aircraft at a cost of over Rs 1,670 crore as against the UPA’sRs 526 crore. The party has also demanded answers from the government on why state-run aerospace major HAL was not involved in the deal.

The Congress has also sought to know price details of the aircraft and how the rate per aircraft has gone up from Rs 526 crore to Rs 1,670 crore. The government has refused to share the details, citing a secrecy clause of a 2008 pact between India and France.

Congress’ AK Antony, who was defence minister in 2008 when India and France inked an inter-governmental agreement on defence procurement, said the government’s claim that the secrecy clause was forcing it to not reveal price details of the deal was “totally wrong”.

The party claimed that Qatar had purchased 12 Rafale fighter jets in November 2017 for $108.33 million per aircraft (Rs 694.80 crore).

The Congress has also alleged the government was benefiting the Reliance Defence Ltd (RDL) through the deal as the company has set up a joint venture with Dassault Aviation to execute the offset obligation for the Rs 59,000 crore deal.

The party has claimed that Reliance Defence was instituted merely 12 days before the announcement of the Rafale deal on April 10, 2015. The RDL has rejected all the charges.

Under India’s offset policy, foreign defence entities are mandated to spend at least 30 per cent of the total contract value in India through procurement of components or setting up of research and development facilities.

On October 3, 2016, RDL and Dassault Aviation announced a joint venture (JV) in the aerospace sector, and a year later, foundation stone of a manufacturing facility was laid in Mihan, Nagpur.

Government’s response

Minister of State for Defence, while replying to a question in Parliament two years ago, had said the cost of each Rafale aircraft is approximately Rs 670 crore but did not give details of prices of associated equipment, weapons and services.

Later, the government refused to talk about the prices. It has been maintaining that the cost of 36 Rafale jets cannot be “directly compared” with the original proposal to buy 126 combat aircraft because the “deliverables” were significantly different.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley wrote a Facebook post on Monday, accusing Congress and its leader Rahul Gandhi of “peddling untruth” and carrying out a “false campaign” on the deal. He said the deal signed by the NDA government was on better terms than the one agreed to in 2007 under the UPA regime. PTI

Assam extends AFSPA for 6 mnths

Guwahati, August 29

The Assam Government has extended application of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, for six more months with immediate effect. “The Governor has declared Assam as ‘Disturbed Area’ up to 6 months,” a release said. — PTI

Don’t appoint IAF medical head: Apex court to Centre

Don’t appoint IAF medical head: Apex court to Centre

Vijay Mohan

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 29

The Supreme Court has refrained the Centre from making any appointment to the post of the Director General Medical Services (Air Force) after it fell vacant earlier this month on the incumbent being posted as the DGMS(Army).

In its orders passed on August 1, 2018, the SC had quashed the appointment of the DGMS(Army). In doing so, it upheld the AFT judgment that allowed a petition filed by Maj Gen (now Lt Gen) Manomoy Ganguly, who challenged the appointment on grounds of seniority and merit.

The AFT, while quashing the government’s choice for the post of DGMS (Army), had also ruled that Ganguly be given the post. On August 10, the government posted Air Marshal Rajvir Singh, then DGMS (IAF), as DGMS (Army) in the rank of Lt Gen. Medical officers are rotated amongst three services and don the uniform and ranks of the service they are posted to.

Ganguly, whose promotion to Lt Gen had been notified by the Appointments Committee of Cabinet in January, is still heading the medical branch at Southern Command, a post tenable by a Maj Gen. Following Rajvir’s posting, he again moved the SC, staking his claim for the Army’s top medical post.

In its August 1 order, the SC disagreed with AFT’s conclusion that the appointment to the post of DGMS (Army) is not based on seniority alone and ruled the AFT’s direction that Ganguly be straightaway appointed as DGMS (Army) may not be proper.

India, Pak troops let their hair down at Russia gala

India, Pak troops let their hair down at Russia gala

Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 29

Unusual scenes were witnessed in Russia last night —Indian and Pakistani soldiers dancing together on popular Punjabi music.

The event was a cultural evening hosted by the Indian Army to mark the end of the eight-nation joint military exercise at Chebarkul, Russia. Pakistan and China were among other participants.

However, it does not mean the two nuclear-armed countries, which have fought four wars against each other and have a running dispute in Jammu and Kashmir, have turned “friends”.

Yesterday was India’s turn of hosting the other nations over an evening to showcase its culture. Military commanders leading each of the countries, including those of Pakistan, China and host Russia, were welcomed with a traditional red ‘tilak’ on their forehead and traditional red-coloured Rajasthani ‘pagris’. The Indian Army’s Rajput regiment is the lead contingent, hence the Rajasthani gear. A well-laid-out meal and some music followed, which led to impromptu dancing by the troops of all countries and some unusual images have emerged of the armies of India and Pakistan for whom this was the first-ever joint military exercise.

Indian and Pakistan soldiers have operated together in the past on UN missions.

The exercise, ‘Peace Mission 2018’, was under the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and it culminated last night.

Corridor hope as Indian envoy visits Kartarpur Explores possibility of bringing 4-km project to fruition

Corridor hope as Indian envoy visits Kartarpur

ndian High Commissioner to Islamabad Ajay Bisaria at Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara.

Smita Sharma

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 29

Indian High Commissioner to Islamabad Ajay Bisaria on Wednesday visited Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara in Pakistan’s Narowal, bordering Gurdaspur in Punjab.

This comes just days after Punjab minister Navjot Sidhu visited Pakistan to attend the oath ceremony of Prime Minister Imran Khan. Sidhu had later mentioned that Pakistan army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa suggested that they were considering opening up the Kartarpur corridor to celebrate the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev next year.The 4-km corridor, if opened, would connect Kartarpur Sahib, where Guru Nanak Dev spent 18 years, to Dera Baba Nanak Dev in Gurdaspur on the Indian side.

According to sources in Pakistan, the envoy during his visit looked towards the Indian border visible from the gurdwara rooftop, interacted with caretakers and  explored the possibility of the corridor. “We hope to bring this longstanding proposal to fruition with focused follow up and coordination with the Pakistan side. This corridor will have a special appeal and significance for devotees as we celebrate 550 years of Guru Nanak Dev’s birth next year,” Bisaria told The Tribune.

The proposal of the corridor first came up during the Musharraf era, but was never actively followed up.

Sikh pilgrims from India visiting Pakistan have been provided access to Kartarpur Sahib over the years through Wagah and Lahore.

However, a direct corridor from Punjab would be very different. “Kartarpur Sahib was the resting place for Guru Nanak Dev for several years. It will be an important gesture from Pakistan for the pilgrims if it happens. It will be significant for devotees,” said Sarat Sabharwal, former Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan.

There is no clarity yet on the modalities and logistics under discussion and if the corridor could be opened for a few days next year or for the long term.

Meanwhile, Bisaria who was stopped by the Pakistan authorities from entering gurdwaras, including Nankana Sahib, during recent visits, was accorded a warm welcome at Kartarpur. However, he was not presented a robe of honour (siropa), as per sources.


Judicial inquiry ordered into ex-serviceman’s ‘custodial’ death

Judicial inquiry ordered into ex-serviceman’s ‘custodial’ death

Jaipur, August 30

A judicial inquiry has been ordered into the alleged custodial death of a 60-year-old former serviceman in Rajasthan’s Bharatpur district last week, an official said on Thursday.

Naik (retd) Prahlad Singh was detained at Kumher police station for allegedly creating nuisance in a drunken state. Singh apparently hanged himself from one of the bars using a blanket provided in cells, District Inspector General Malini Agarwal had said.

However, the Army’s administrative commandant in Bharatpur had written to the district collector on Monday, alleging that Singh died due to severe beating and third-degree torture.

Denying that the judicial enquiry was ordered after Army intervention, District Collector Sandesh Nayak told PTI such inquiry was a protocol and the same was followed immediately after Singh’s death.

Army sources said today that they had received the copy of the Monday’s order from the district administration.

Refusing to comment on the issue, Station House Officer Brijesh Meena said he was posted at the Kumher police station a day after the incident and would not like to comment as a judicial inquiry was pending.

Singh’s family members had also lodged a complaint with the police, stating that it was not a case of suicide. — PTI

Memorials & funerals for the living

Memorials & funerals for the living

JP Singh

We Indians believe in hero worship and indulge in too much emotionalism, especially in the event of mishaps, tragedies and national calamities. We forget altogether the practical importance, utility and impact that spur-of-the-moment decisions have on the living.

Holidays are declared, be it on the national, state or village level, but does the common man observe mourning during these holidays? Does he remember the departed leader? Do holidays demonstrate the ‘Work is Worship’ philosophy of the great leaders we are honouring? If not, then holidays are a tremendous waste of national time and energy.

Monuments and memorials are our pride and tradition. They express our homage to these great people. But do they truly speak about their history and deeds? They should reflect the enormous sacrifices they made for their country and become a source of inspiration for the present and future generations.

Miles of area is covered with samadhis of our leaders, to whom we owe a great deal — our very freedom — and whom we hold in high esteem.But the practical utility and impact becomes nothing for the common man. It is but a place of homage and respect, visited by a few dignitaries once or twice a year; and these memories fade away with time.

Soon the older samadhis are frequented less and less and new heroes take the place of older ones. Let us make all these memorials, ‘living memorials’. They could be smaller in size but bigger in the ideals of the great man they portray. Let them be attached to an institution or organisation that believes in and venerates the cause for which the man lived and died. Art galleries, museums, auditoriums for seminars and workshops for cultural training and associated programmes could reflect this cause. A true and living example for the world to emulate — functional and useful for all, i.e. hospitals and learning institutions.

We cannot build Taj Mahals as tourist spots for all. Future generations should learn and take inspiration from the lives and work of these great men and women, the cause for which they lived and suffered for us.

Memorials should be planned and designed while keeping in view the personality, objectives and dreams of those who are no more with us. The institute, organisation or monument should not eclipse the real character and personality but be a part and parcel of it.

Let the example come from the top. Let the big foundations and big business houses and the government take the first step, with enough funds at their disposal.

Otherwise, these samadhis and memorials, like other graveyards and cemeteries, will say only one thing:

‘Oh! Passersby/One day you will be here as I’.

Part of the same Mother Earth — not richer in any way, perhaps a little higher (the height of the samadhi) — the same Universal Soil.

Northern Command AWWA celebrates 52nd anniv in Udhampur

Northern Command AWWA celebrates 52nd anniv in Udhampur

The Army Wives’ Welfare Organisation, Northern Command, celebrated its 52nd anniversary at Udhampur on Thursday. A function at the Udhampur military station was organised on the occasion. The celebrations were also concurrently held at other family stations in the command, Srinagar-based defence spokesman said. Theme of the celebration was ‘empowerment of differently abled’.  A documentary on the empowerment of the differently abled was also screened. TNS

Army chief reviews security in Valley

Srinagar, August 24 
Chief of Army Staff Gen Bipin Rawat visited the Chinar Corps on Friday to review the prevailing overall security situation in the Valley, an Army spokesman said.
On his sthe Army chief interacted with former Governor NN Vohra at Raj Bhawan in Srinagar.

“Later in the day, the Army chief was given an update by the Chinar Corps commander in the Badami Bagh cantonment on the latest security scenario in the Kashmir valley, including the details of counter-infiltration and counter-terrorist operations undertaken in the recent past and the Amarnath yatra,” the spokesman added.
General Rawat was appreciative of the measures initiated, which have significantly contributed towards improving the security situation.
The Army chief also interacted with other senior functionaries of the security forces, the spokesman said.

Soldier killed in mine blast in Kupwara

Tribune News Service
Srinagar, August 25

A soldier was killed in a mine blast in north Kashmir’s frontier Kupwara district on late Friday, officials said.
The mine blast took place at around 10 pm on Friday when army was patrolling an area close to the Line of Control.
“A soldier of 3 JAK RIF got injured due to mine blast and succumbed to his injuries,” a security official said.
The identity of the soldier could not be established immediately.

Defence Minister grants stay on eviction of 700 families

Nitish Sharma

Tribune News Service

Ambala, August 24
In a major relief to about 700 families residing in the RA Parade Ground area, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has granted an administrative stay on the eviction of the families.
The Defence Minister has informed Health Minister Anil Vij about the stay through a letter.

Ambala Cantonment Board Vice-President Ajay Baweja told The Tribune: “In April last year, we had made a representation before Health Minister Anil Vij regarding the families living in the RA Parade Ground area. Anil Vij had further requested the Ministry of Defence to frame a suitable policy regarding the land occupied by around 700 houses belonging to the weaker sections in the area, after imposing reasonable development charges.”
“The RA Parade Ground land, about 176.871 acre, belongs to the Ministry of Defence and families have been living there for around 200 years. They were brought here from Uttar Pradesh by the British to grow and supply vegetables to them. From time to time, people were granted agricultural leases and the last lease expired on May 31, 1975, and the land was required for defence purposes. The land was, however, never vacated by the former lessees. Due to the unauthorised occupation of the defence land, action against them was initiated under the PPE Act, 1971,” he added.
Baweja said: “The Army used to send notices and people living there were not allowed to do any construction. In case any construction was done, it was demolished. After examining the matter, the Defence Minister has granted an administrative stay on the eviction of these families. A letter has been received in this context. Now they will be able to do construction and the board will be able to develop the area.”
Baweja said: “The Parade Ground problem has been a political issue in Ambala. We are thankful to Anil Vij for raising the matter and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman for granting stay.”