Air Marshal (retd.) S.B.P. Sinha, who headed the Indian Negotiating Team that finalized the Rafale contract, on Friday dismissed a controversial leaked note, claiming interference by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) in the deal, as mischievous.
Air Marshal Sinha said that he has never seen the note which has nothing to do with the negotiating team. “It was, at best, an internal deliberation in the Ministry of Defence (MoD) which was settled there,” he said, expressing surprise that such a document has been used to malign the contract.
Air Marshal Sinha was the deputy chief of air staff at that time. He said all the papers related to the contract was in the Indian Air Force (IAF) files. The deputy secretary who initiated the said note was never part of the process.
“I saw the note for the first time today and that too in an encrypted form where the decision of the RM (Raksha Mantri) is concealed. Unlike other procurements. This (Rafale) was being headed by me. All meetings were being held at air headquarters. All the files with respect to the Indian negotiating team were air headquarter files. All the minutes of the meetings are in the air headquarters file. This (the one carrying the note) is a MoD file. It was started there and closed and shut there,” he said.
Apart from Sinha, the negotiating team comprised another air force officer and five joint secretaries of MoD, MoD (Finance) and department of defence production. All the secretarial support was provided by the office of the deputy chief of air staff.
“This note covers an area which was only the domain of the Indian negotiating team. It was made without participating in the negotiations. The deputy secretary who has done it was neither part of the negotiating team nor did he have any locus standi in the contract,” he said.