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Modi’s personal culpability in Rafale scam: Shourie, Sinha



Sinha Shorie

New Delhi, Sep 11 : Alleging Narendra Modi’s “personal culpability” in the Rafale jet purchases, former BJP Ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie on Tuesday accused the Prime Minister of “compromising national security” by unilaterally finalising the deal, shunning every rule of military procurement.

Addressing the media, both Sinha and Shourie said the government had “spun a web of lies to protect Modi’s culpability in the largest defence scam” the country had ever seen.

The two dismissed all the explanations given by the Modi government and the ruling BJP in justifying the deal as “blatant lies” and said Modi “usurped the authority” and unilaterally cancelled the original deal for the sake of his “crony capitalists”.

“In so far what has transpired, it directly reflects Modi’s personal culpability, there is no escaping that fact. Every explanation they put out ensnares the government in the web of lies they have spun. This means they have a lot to hide,” said Shourie.

They said that Modi kept the Indian Air Force (IAF), the Defence Ministry and the External Affairs Ministry in the dark about the new deal before making a sudden announcement in April 2015.

“National security has been compromised by Modi and every rule of procurement flouted to unilaterally reduce the number of planes from 126 to 36 and remove Make in India under Transfer of Technology by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) despite the fact that IAF, Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) and MoD had come to a reasoned conclusion that 126 aircraft were required for the long term needs and security of the country,” said Shourie.

Citing procedural requirement of DAC’s approval being a condition precedent for finalising a new deal, they pointed to the fact that the approval for Modi’s deal was given by DAC on May 13, 2015, more than a month after Modi had already announced the new deal.

Shourie along with Sinha and lawyer activist Prashant Bhushan also claimed that the choice of a private party as offset partner rejecting HAL was a “result of Modi’s personal decision”.

In the wake of the government recently rejecting a proposal by Russia to make Adani Group a partner for a joint venture to manufacture the modern AK-series assault rifles, both Shourie and Bhushan said “MoD’s total abdication of duty while granting approvals for offset contracts in the Rafale deal was exceptional”.

“The question is how the price of Rs 670 crore per aircraft went up to Rs 1,670 crore. The government has been hiding behind confidentiality clause. If it is confidential, then how come (former defence minister) Manohar Parrikar and then (Minister of State for Defence) Subhash Bhamre had quoted the price of the jets,” asked Shourie.

Parrikar in 2015 told Doordarshan that the UPA-negotiated price for 126 Rafale combat aircraft would have been Rs 715 crore apiece while a year later Bhamre told the Lok Sabha that the NDA-negotiated price would be approximately Rs 670 crore.

“Each new invention shows that all these arguments are an afterthought to justify the scam through which the price per aircraft has been increased from Rs 670 crore to Rs 1,660 crore approximately,” said Sinha.



Opposition to meet before winter session of Parliament, chalk out next move: Naidu



Kolkata, Nov 19 : The much talked about meeting of parties opposed to the BJP to strategise against the saffron party in the next Lok Sabha elections has been postponed and may now be held after the current Assembly elections and before the start of the winter session of Parliament, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu and his West Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee said after a meeting between them here.

Claiming that democracy in the country was in danger, Naidu, who is also the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief, said on Monday that there is a “democratic compulsion” for the senior opposition leaders to join hands to protect the nation.

Echoing his views, Banerjee said the meeting of anti-BJP parties would be held after campaigning in the Assembly elections and before the start of the winter session of Parliament.

“The meeting to be held on November 22 has been postponed due to the ongoing election campaign. We want to meet before the next parliamentary session. We are in discussions about it. The date of the meeting will be announced soon,” Naidu told reporters following the meeting at the state secretariat Nabanna here.

“Democracy in the country is in danger. So there is a democratic compulsion for us to join together. It is the responsibility of us, the senior leaders to protect the nation. Those who are opposing BJP will join together, discuss everything and chalk out a programme to go forward,” he said.

Naidu, whose TDP was earlier an ally of the BJP, has met a spectrum of leaders including Congress president Rahul Gandhi, NCP’s Sharad Pawar, DMK’s M.K. Stalin, National Conference’ Farooq Abdullah, former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda and BSP chief Mayawati to forge a front against the ruling party and had proposed a meeting of opposition parties to be held in New Delhi on November 22.

Terming the meeting with Banerjee as successful, Naidu said fighting together has become necessary as all major institutions in the country including the CBI, the Income Tax Department, the RBI are under threat while the nation’s economy is at a standstill.

“We have to protect the institutions… you name any institution, they are under severe pressure and threat. Be it the CBI, Income Tax, RBI every institution is under threat. Even the petrol and diesel prices are increasing, there is inflation, the whole nation’s economy is at a standstill,” he said.

When asked whether the Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati, who has refused to be a part of the “mahagatbandhan” if the Congress is included, will be considered as an ally, Naidu said, “All these things, we are going to discuss. We are in touch with Mayawati ji along with everybody else.”

Banerjee, the Trinamool Congress supremo, said she has invited Naidu for her proposed opposition party meeting here in January next year, which was confirmed by the TDP chief.

“We are grateful that he has come here. I invited him also for the January 19 meeting. We are discussing the matters for the country’s interest and earlier, we also discussed so many things. Today, we discussed in detail about the next future plans. When the meeting will be decided, we will discuss the plan of action. We are working and speaking together,” Banerjee said.

Responding to a question regarding who would be the face of the proposed grand alliance of opposition parties, Banerjee said, “Everybody will be the face of this Mahagatbandhan (grand alliance).”

Naidu interjected to say that “all of us are senior to Modi”.

The West Bengal BJP leadership, however, refused to give any importance to the meeting stating that both Banerjee and Naidu are regional leaders and neither have any vote bank in the other’s state.

“Does Naidu have any supporter in Bengal? Or does Banerjee have any vote bank in Andhra Pradesh? Then what is the point of this meeting?” BJP National Secretary Rahul Sinha questioned.

Terming the proposed alliance between opposition leaders like Banerjee and Naidu as an “alliance of thieves”, Sinha said common people know that some corrupt leaders are getting united to save themselves from getting arrested by the CBI.

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India, Vietnam should revive maritime connect : Kovind



Hanoi, Nov 19 : President Ram Nath Kovind on Monday called for reviving maritime connect between India and Vietnam as he exhorted increase in bilateral trade from the current $ 12.8 billion and  more cooperation in the areas of agriculture, pharmaceuticals, textiles and IT.

“There was a flourishing maritime connect in the past. In the last 8 years, we have seen almost four fold increase in bilateral trade, from 3.7 billion US dollars in 2010 to 12.8 US dollars last year. Agriculture has been a key sector of our cooperation involving trade, investment and training,” Kovind said while addressing the Vietnam-India Business Forum here.

“We feel privileged to have supported the Vietnamese agricultural revolution through the establishment of Cuu Long Rice Research Institute,” he said.

Stating that Vietnam is a huge agricultural economy with agro-marine-forestry exports surpassing $35 billion last year, Kovind said that agricultural products already occupy over 45 per cent of India-Vietnam bilateral trade.

“Agro-processing, agro-chemicals, farm machinery, bio-technology and high-tech farming hold immense potential for bilateral cooperation,” he said.

“Indian industry can also learn from Vietnam’s success in crops such as coffee, pepper, cashew, fruits and vegetables.”

The President also said that the Indian pharmaceuticals industry, the third largest in terms of volume and the world’s largest provider of generic drugs, can partner Vietnam in providing quality health-care, medicines and medical devices for the public health system at an affordable cost.

“Indian pharmaceutical companies are also looking at domestic production opportunities in Vietnam,” Kovind said.

He pointed out that both India and Vietnam are leading players in the textile industry.

“We must cooperate further to facilitate integration of value chains,” Kovind said.

He also highlighted significant opportunities between the two sides in the oil and gas, power, infrastructure and renewable energy sectors.

Stating that the Indian IT services, including digital economy and fin-tech sector have much to offer to Vietnamese growth, Kovind said start-up sectors and innovation based industry must be encouraged to leverage each other.

“We must also learn from each other on how to improve productivity; how to approach the Fourth Industrial Revolution; how to promote innovation and entrepreneurship; and not the least, how to leverage technology for governance,” he stated.

Vietnam is a key partner country of India in Southeast Asia and served as New Delhi’s coordinator country with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) regional bloc till July this year

India and Vietnam have set a bilateral trade target of $15 billion by 2020.

Later, Kovind also addressed an Indian community reception during which he invited members of the community to attend next year’s Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, the External Affairs Ministry-organised conclave of the Indian diaspora.

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Rafale controversy won’t dent IAF image: Raghunath Nambiar



Guwahati, Nov 19:  The image of Indian Air Force (IAF) will not be dented due to the controversy regarding the Rafale fighter jets deal, said Air Marshal Raghunath Nambiar, the deputy chief of IAF.

He said this here on Monday while interacting with the media and added that the people can differentiate between chaff and grain.

Nambiar interacted with the media over the proposed visit of President Ram Nath Kovind to present the coveted President’s standard to 118 Helicopter Unit and colours to the Air Defence College at Guwahati Air Force Station on November 29.

“My fellow citizens can differentiate between chaff and grain. The place of armed forces in India is very sacred,” he said.

The opposition Congress has challenged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to participate in a debate over the details of the Rafale fighter jets deal signed with the French government.

Detailing on the IAF’s infrastructure development in the region, Nambiar said that the Force has operationalised six Advanced Landing Grounds (ALGs) in Arunachal Pradesh. These facilities will be used by civilians. These ALGs include Mechuka, Tuting, Passighat, Ziro, Aalo and Walong.

“We are yet to operationalise the Vijaynagar ALG, for there is some road connectivity issue. Operationalisation of these ALGs will come as a major boost to tourism.”

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