French probe into Rafale makes JPC a must: AK Antony

The French Public Prosecution Services decision to order a judicial investigation into “the corruption, influence paddling and brazen favouritism” in the 36 aircraft Rafale deal has made it necessary, all the more, for the Modi government to concede to the opposition demand for a joint parliamentary committee probe into the matter, former defence minister AK Antony has said. He asked why the prime minister and the defence minister were silent on the developments in France.

“The subsequent series of events and documents placed in public record have now affirmed the stance of the Congress party about wrongdoing and corruption in the Rafale deal. What is, indeed, mysterious is the fact that despite 48 hours having lapsed, the prime minister and the defence minister have decided to maintain a complete silence on ordering of a corruption investigation into the Rafale deal by the French Public Prosecution Services. Simple question is why has the government chosen to remain mum? Why have the prime minister and the defence minister not come forward to react on the shocking and sensational development of a corruption probe in the Rafale deal by the Public Prosecution Services of France? Can the Modi government escape accountability for corruption allegations by its intriguing silence? Is it not the responsibility of the government to come forward and accept the truth,” Antony asked in a statement on Monday, referring to the media expose and subsequent probe in France.

“This is even more important as 36 aircraft are being purchased by Modi government under an ‘Inter-Governmental Agreement’ and one party to the agreement, i.e. the French government, has proceeded to order an investigation through a judge. The only way forward is to accept accountability and order a free and fair JPC probe into the entire set of facts, evidence and allegations of corruption in the Rafale deal,” Antony said.

Recalling how PM Modi went to Paris on April 10, 2015, and “unilaterally announced the purchase of 36 Rafale aircraft without going through any tender process and in complete derogation of the Defence Procurement Procedure”, Antony said “every defence expert was shocked” by this “unilateral order… even more surprising because there was an ongoing negotiation for purchase of 126 Rafale aircraft in pursuance of an international tender, which envisaged 108 aircraft to be made in India by and 18 aircraft with provisions of “all important transfer of technology to India”.

He said till date, neither the PM nor the government has explained the reason for reducing the number of aircraft from 126 to 36, for sacrificing transfer of technology, for enhancing the price of 36 aircraft and for denying the offset contract to HAL.

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