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The Rafale Deal. One More in a Long List

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By Mohan Guruswamy

I have known and seen up close ten Prime Ministers of India and can safely testify that except for Dr Manmohan Singh, all the others collected money. The money was mostly for their parties and some of it inevitably leaked out. Collecting money involves trade-offs. It’s always an investment by the giver for more. Money is the mother’s milk of politics. Without it the political machine that sustains the whole edifice grinds to a halt. Without it the people who mostly man the system from the propaganda phase to the bringing-out-the-voters phase will just disappear. Thus the main task of a political leader is to raise money. Have no illusions about it. We have a corrupt system.
Narendra Modi didn’t get where he did without hush money and slush money. That’s why he figures in the documents seized in the raids on Birla Group companies in 2013, and on the Sahara India Group in the national capital region on November 22, 2014. It is alleged that there are notings by Sahara officials that they had paid money nine times to Modi between October 2013 and February 2014. It is also alleged that documents with Income Tax departments reveal that the Birla Group paid Rs 12 crore to Modi, of a total of Rs 25 crore, when he was Gujarat chief minister. (So let’s can this nonsense of an incorruptible prime minister. They are all men of the world, save Manmohan Singh who has a long relationship with people of grease and sleaze to do the job for him.)
This is why defence deals play such a major role in our politics. Like petroleum taxes they make for easy collection. India’s defence spend is expected to hit $620 billion between the fiscal years 2014 and 2022, with half of it going into capital expenditure. According to the Stockholm International Peach Research Institute India is the fifth largest military spender (2016) in the world and the largest importer of arms, accounting for 13 percent of the world’s total imports between 2012 and 2016. As much as 70 percent of India’s arms are imported.
India’s first big ticket military purchase was for de Havilland Vampire jets in November 1948. V.K. Krishna Menon, India’s first High Commissioner in London, engineered this deal. At that time India had UK Sterling reserves and the cost of the Vampires was just deducted from this. In those days of early innocence this deal escaped notice. Here was a relatively large arms purchase made on the quiet and with no options examined. Incidentally the Vampires arrived without firing pins.
Following the Vampires, India ordered several hundred Ouragan’s and Mystère fighters from France, Fairchild C-119G Packet transports from the USA, Hawker Hunter fighter-bombers and English Electric Canberra bombers. Most of these were ad hoc purchases and it was always speculated that some money had changed hands to facilitate these deals. We were in too much of a funk to use them in 1962.
Nothing ever came out on these deals, but soon people started noticing a new class of people in New Delhi. These were the early jet setters with homes in London and business interests in India. Their business interests were mostly centered on highly placed bureaucrats, military officers and powerful politicians. It was not long before the names of some leading politicians’ sons also began to be heard in this connection.
The only deals that didn’t have such intermediaries were the government-to-government purchases from the former Soviet Union. In fact the deals mostly favoured India and often we got the latest fighters, like the MiG 29, even before the Soviet Air Force got them.
The 1970s also saw the advent of the likes of the Hinduja brothers and soon arms deals became major sources of slush funds for buyers, sellers, middlemen and everyone else in between, all of whom went laughing all the way to the bank.
The first major deal that went this way was the Anglo-French SEPECAT Jaguar deep penetration strike aircraft in 1978, when Jagjivan Ram was defence minister. In 1979 the defence minister’s son Suresh Kumar was in a fracas in the car park of Parliament in a Mercedes Benz car (a rarity in those days) with a group of rival Janata Party activists led by K.C. Tyagi, now a JD(U) MP. When the police investigated the matter, it was discovered that the car was registered in the name one S.P. Chibber, a known arms wheeler-dealer who was reputedly the intermediary for the Anglo-French consortium which produced the Jaguar.
This was when the French Mirage 2000 made by Marcel Dassault Avions made its appearance. Rajiv Gandhi, as a newly elected MP in 1982 and Congress general secretary, saw it put through its paces at the Paris Airshow. He was very impressed. He sat in on the official meeting in the ministry of defence that decided to acquire Mirage 2000. Gandhi had just become a qualified Boeing 737 pilot and this was presumably considered expertise enough.
In 1985 the Rajiv Gandhi government decided to induct 150 Mirage 2000 fighters into the IAF. The first 40 aircraft were to be imported from France and the rest manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. But the second part of the program was not operationalised despite HAL’s having invested in an assembly line for Mirage 2000s. What happened is still a matter of speculation.
The next big deal pertained to Bofors about which so much has been written. The merits of the Bofors FH-77 155 mm Howitzer are not in question, although ignorant people like Ram Jethmalani tried to paint it as a dud. But what became apparent was irrespective of which Howitzer was bought Ottavio Quattrochi and the Hinduja brothers were cut into the deal. The Hinduja influence to peddle went beyond parties. Atal Bihari Vajpayee even wrote to then Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao (another Hinduja friend) to exonerate them of all charges and Jethmalani defended them in court.
Even if the Rafale had been bought in 2014 as it was cleared by the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft tender for far less, $10.5 billion for 126 aircraft, it would have involved under the table payments. These payments typically go three ways. One tranche to the Indian decision-makers, the second to the middlemen and the third to officials in French establishment and manufacturers. French leaders like Giscard d’Estaing, Jacques Chirac and Nicholas Sarkozy have at various times been accused by French media of taking money from the likes of Jean Bedel Bokassa, Muammar Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein.
This is a well-honed European practice. We saw it happen in the purchase of Bofors Howitzers when Olof Palme’s Socialist Party too got a cut. Even then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s son was found to have been paid in the Saudi deal to buy 220 Tornado fighters. The Guardian wrote: “MoD documents reveal that the price of each Tornado was inflated by 32%, from £16.3m to £21.5m. It is common in arms deals for the prices of weapons to be raised so that commissions can be skimmed off the top”.
But how much more are we paying for the “new” Rafales? Air Marshal M. Matheswaran (retd.), the officer who led the evaluation of the six fighters bidding for the MMRCA contract said that the Rafale was chosen as it was “an exceptional aircraft in a multirole capability, but was an expensive aircraft”. According to him the MMRCA tender was cleared “for $10.5 billion for 126 aircraft”. The French Air Force acquired its Rafale for €55 million apiece. The Indian Rafale cost more because of an India-specific weapons package and avionics modifications.
In the Air Staff Qualitative Requirements (ASQR) provided by the Indian Air Force, there were 13 “India-Specific Enhancements” demanded by India in the 126-aircraft MMRCA contract. These included radar enhancements, a helmet-mounted display, a towed decoy system, a low-band jammer and the ability to operate from high-altitude airfields.
That these were the same for the 36 Rafales ordered by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is made clear by the joint statement of April 10, 2015 issued by French President Francois Hollande and PM Modi, which reads: “…that the aircraft and associated systems and weapons would be delivered on the same configuration as has been tested and approved by Indian Air Force…”
There is much noise about the huge costs at which the 36 Rafales have been contracted for. The comparable costs of the 126 and 36 deals can only be read when all the costs are factored in.
The cost of the new deal for 36 Rafales is €3.42 billion as the cost of bare planes; €1.8 billion for associated supplies for infrastructure and support; €1.7 billion for India-specific changes; and €353 million for “performance-based logistics support”; with the weapons package of €700 million being the extra. What is new here are the performance-based logistics support and weapons package. So take out €1,053 million and you have the comparable cost, which means it is now €7.1 billion.
It appears that the “fiddle” is in India-specific costs, additional infrastructure and support, and performance logistics support. The first MMRCA deal would also have included India-specific specifications, as in the case of the IAF’s Su-30 MKIs. For comparison’s sake, the argument can be that 36 Rafales now cost €7.1 billion, while 126 Rafales in 2012 cost €7.75 billion.
Clearly a huge cushioning has been provisioned to meet the needs of all the parties concerned – the Bharatiya Janata Party, Anil Ambani and I would suspect even some French officials to preclude any whistle blowing. Look at these other facts now. According to the ministry of company affairs, Reliance Defence Ltd was registered on March 28, 2015. On April 11, 2015 Reliance Defence Ltd becomes the main partner to ensure the 50 per cent offset clause, under which Dassault and other related French parties would invest half the contract value back into the country.
Government officials insist that 74 percent of the offsets will be exported, earning €3 billion for the country in the next seven years. The experience with all offsets suggests that this is far-fetched. It has not happened so far. In the AgustaWestland offsets investigators discovered money trails from Mauritius, Singapore, the UAE, Tunisia, the UK and the British Virgin Islands linking the agents and the manufacturer. I will bet that Reliance Defence, a company registered just 14 days before the Modi-Hollande deal, was meant to create a pathway for “offsets” to come back into Indian hands, for politics and business.
Incidentally Anil Ambani’s flagship company, Reliance Communications Ltd (stylised as RCom) just defaulted on a major foreign loan and its future ability to fulfill its Rafale offsets commitment should now be in doubt.
Recently, IDBI Bank filed an insolvency application before the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) seeking debt resolution of Reliance Naval and Engineering, the shipbuilding Anil Ambani company, under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code. Yet Reliance Defence is quite confident about fulfilling its Rafale-related obligations. I suspect there are no obligations. Reliance Defence is just a pass through. It’s not without reason that Anil Ambani is believed to be close to Prime Minister Modi and to some in his close circle.

 

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Opinion

The contours of contest ahead

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By Mahesh Rangarajan

This summer will see a carnival of democracy in the general election. Much has changed in just five years. The elan of Narendra Modi’s party is more muted this time. Last weekend, key opponents, the Samajwadi Party and the BahujanSamaj Party, joined forces in Uttar Pradesh, making the contest real and not a walkover. The Index of Opposition Unity cannot predict outcomes but no one can afford to ignore it.

The Congress’s victories in the Assembly elections in three north Indian States have given it a shot in the arm. Equally important, the older party is firming up alliances in the southern States. The 131 Lok Sabha seats in five States (Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Telangana) and two Union Territories (Lakshadweep and Puducherry) have been critical to it in times of trouble.

 

The Telangana poll outcome was sobering for both the large national parties. Regional nationalism is not new to Indian politics: Jammu and Kashmir and Tamil Nadu were precursors. Regional formations have long governed West Bengal, Odisha and now Telangana. They may well hold the keys to power in New Delhi.

In 2014, it was the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that led in securing allies. Between then and now, BJP president Amit Shah has helped expand its footprint. Not only does it have more MLAs than the Congress, but its cadre fights every election like there is no tomorrow.

The challenge lies elsewhere. The Congress may have lost in 2014 and come down to a historic low of less than one in five votes cast. Yet, only a decade age, in May 2009, the roles had been in reverse. It was Congress that had then polled 29% and the BJP just 19% of the popular vote.

This time is different. It is 1971 that will be the textbook case for the ruling party. When the Grand Alliance said it would oust Indira Gandhi, she replied she wished to banish poverty. She won hands down.

Mrs. Gandhi did not have to contend with a powerful Dalit-led formation in the Ganga valley which commands 20% of the vote. Many of today’s regional parties were yet to be formed. She captured the public imagination. It was a gamble and she won hands down. Mr. Modi too will fight to the last voter. He will try to be the issue. He has sounded the tocsin against dynasty, caste and corruption. Hence the record in getting visible benefits to the individual and the family. The gas cylinder, the light bulb, that rural road: each will, he hopes, add to his appeal.

History has another instance too. The 2004 general election was held early. Atal Bihari Vajpayee was confident that ‘India was Shining’. The dream came apart on counting day. Rather than a unified Opposition (for there was none in the all-important State of Uttar Pradesh), ground-level discontent denied the ruling alliance another chance.

And yet, there is the cloud of the horizon. Even in 2004, the Congress was only a whisker ahead of the BJP — just seven seats more in the Lok Sabha. The Congress had 145 seats to the BJP’s 138. The key was on the ground, where the mood had shifted. The economic upturn began in 2003, but voters did not see gains early enough for the ruling bloc to reap an electoral harvest.

In 2014, the challenger drew on the tiredness with a decade of a Congress-led government and promised a fresh start. Runaway inflation and the spectre of corruption undercut the appeal of the Congress. This time the issues have changed. It is the squeeze on farm incomes and rural debt that are the key poll planks. Similarly, the issue of jobs is more pressing than ever. Cultivators across all strata and young people seeking productive employment want answers.

Two States are key. Maharashtra, a State critical in the histories of both the Congress and the BJP, is not only seeing a coming together of Opposition forces; it is undergoing drought and rural distress. Ominously, key farmer-led allies have walked across. Uttar Pradesh, a bastion of the BJP, has rival Dalit- and Mandal-led parties coalesce for the first time in a quarter century. Both States have something in common. In both, sugarcane cultivation is a determinant of electoral fortunes.

Cane (not caste) and jobs (not community slogans) may hold the key. Ganna and Naukri, not reservations or the emotive Mandir issue. What matters more: bread or identity? Even when both count what takes precedence?

Government policy has had a key role in this denouement. By according priority to consumers in cities (who want low prices for cereals, oil seeds and pulses), the government did not have to pay heed to rural residents who need to earn more. The latter, as producers, are larger in number and percentage than in any other democracy.

India still lives and votes in its villages. Under Mr. Shah, the cadre, organisation and outreach have made the BJP a vastly larger party than any other. But economic policies can strain such organisational gains.

Democracy is about more than development. In a polity where people can throw their rulers out, it is centrally about politics. Since 1999, there has been a bi-nodal system, and the choice is not simply between Mr. Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi.
We have effectively a one-party government with a firm hand on the wheel (but with the danger of an over-centralisation of power).

Against this, is ranged a looser coalition in which regional forces and rural interests have more play. Needless to add, the latter will be rockier, more contentious and tough to manage in a coherent fashion.

The Modi government is driven by ideology and not pragmatism on a range of issues. This is the first ever BJP government with a view of culture, history and politics that seeks to remake history as much as the future. Is this the party’s agenda or the country’s? This is a question in the background: if the Ram temple issue comes to the fore, it will be a major choice for the voter.

The pluralism and Hindutva debate have another dimension more so than ever, namely the federal question. Across the Northeast (including Sikkim), far more important to the country than its 25 Lok Sabha seats indicate, the idea of citizenship is at variance with the new Citizenship Bill passed by the Lok Sabha. Across the country, State-level parties see an accretion of powers in the federal government unseen since the 1980s.

True, Mr. Modi has a wider mass appeal than any one since Mrs. Gandhi. But history is witness that such appeal can also have limits if voters decide that enough is enough. Has that point been reached? We simply do not know.

More central is the question of questions. Are you better off than you were five years ago, and if not, why not? If so, and even if not, do you think we are moving in the right direction?

In 2014, The Economist observed that if India had the per capita wealth of Gujarat, the country would rank with Spain. Has that dream come true or it is unravelling and fast? How voters answer that will show who they stand with.

(The writer is Professor of History and Environmental Studies at Ashoka University, Haryana. Source: The Hindu)

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Opinion

Headwinds rock Rahul, Modi

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By Jawed Naqvi

Recent headlines have offered clues about the way the wind is blowing before the general elections in India. A make-or-break element in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s re-election bid in May lies in Uttar Pradesh. It was here that he swept the 2014 polls on the back of anti-Muslim blood and gore set off in Muzaffarnagar, what some in the prime minister’s choral media have praised as ‘Modi Magic’. Spurring his win in the country’s most populous state was a palpably disharmonious opposition. That may have changed this year — or has it?

Let’s quickly scour the headlines. My first story refers to the Congress party’s bizarre plan to contest all 80 parliamentary seats in UP on its own. What then becomes of the promised coalition?

 

The second story seemed facetious at first but it describes a crippling fallout on the BJP of its ban on slaughter of cattle in UP. The alarmed party must now contain unwanted cattle in their post-productive state when they become a load on the farmers. Will the revered holy cow be artificially inseminated to produce more cows than bulls, as the animal husbandry minister says? How serious is the looming crisis in a political season?

A fourth story is The Hindu’s damning report by a former Indian supreme court judge, which gathered dust in the vaults of the apex court for over a year, on fake encounter deaths in Gujarat. Will it haunt the BJP together with an equally strong concern expressed by UN rights officials about allegations of widespread killings in Yogi Adityanath-ruled Uttar Pradesh?

And finally, the party’s national convention addressed by Modi where he offered himself as the only choice to lead India, which needs a ‘mazbootsarkar’, a strong government. The opposition alliance can only produce a ‘majboorsarkar’, says he, a government weakened by its own political compromises.

Two of the stories should suffice to indicate the headwinds ahead. The Congress party’s announcement of fighting all seats in UP, came not surprisingly a day after the backward caste Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Dalit BahujanSamaj Party (BSP), once bitter rivals,

declared a joint campaign in 76 constituencies, leaving four for Congress, presumably. In the last vote count, BSP (22.23 per cent) and the SP (28.07pc) totalled more than BJP (41.35pc) and Congress put together. Congress is an insignificant player in UP, and its irresponsible claim to contest all seats makes it a laughing stock given the high stakes in May.

What lies behind the absurdity? The fact is that Congress, perennially described a family enterprise of the Gandhis, is actually a coalition of powerful satraps, usually but not always shored up by Mumbai businessmen.

The business clubs have a chronic allergy to the Gandhis, though they are not averse to backing a Narasimha Rao or a Manmohan Singh in Congress. The allergens are old and damning. Nehru had jailed their leading businessman for corruption, Indira Gandhi had shut their banks, and Rajiv Gandhi ordered them to get off the backs of Congress workers. The tycoons came back hard at him with the Bofors smear though.

In the recent elections in Madhya Pradesh, a local Congress chieftain deemed close to a particular business family, opposed and subverted an alliance with Mayawati’s Dalit party. Congress won but not cleanly and it needs the BSP to sustain a majority. In Uttar Pradesh, the SP has strong ties with key business families, including the one that Rahul Gandhi has named in the Rafael warplanes scandal.

Given the state of play, the young Gandhi should ideally decide whether he wants to be a compromised representative of disparate, even contrary interests as prime minister, something his satraps would like him to be. Or should he be nudging the opposition parties, bereft of common ambition, with a Nehruvian vision to forge a truly durable secular polity?

The left had done this successfully with Indira Gandhi. The model can only strengthen Congress and its essentially left-leaning mass base. See it as a Tony Blair-Jeremy Corbyn moment within the Indian equivalent of the Labour Party. Else, the system in India, a tycoon-run deep state, would continue to harness Congress satraps and the BJP in a bind that undermines the constitution’s fair promise.

Signs of disarray in the opposition should comfort the BJP, but evidently the party for the first time is looking mortally afraid of losing. From ‘Congress-free India’, Modi is now talking about ‘a weak opposition government’. There’s more evidence of panic in Omar Rashid’s story in The Hindu about a cattle market that has collapsed, about stray cows raiding UP farms as impoverished farmers abandon their hungry animals.

Explaining the dilemma, BJP’s minister for animal husbandry said: “UP is a state of small and minor farmers, with two crop seasons. For 15 days of ploughing, a farmer no longer wants to feed two bullocks all year round.” To solve the problem the government has started a sex-sorted scheme under which the chances of a cow producing a female calf would be as high as 90pc to 95pc. Simultaneously, the BJP government is imposing a 0.5pc gaukalyan (cow welfare) cess on liquor and road toll collections, besides doubling an existing 1pc levy on the incomes of wholesale produce markets. The proceeds will fund construction and maintenance of new cow pens.

While the kitten entangles itself in the ball of wool, the opposition should be taking control of the narrative. But Congress, far from offering a vision, which only it could, is saddled with its recent promise to make cow urine economically viable while discussing the grade of the Brahminical thread Rahul Gandhi wears, neither of which is part of the winning calculation for the SP and the BSP.

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Opinion

The social fibre is in disarray

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By Tawfeeq Irshad Mir

Kashmir lost its claim to heaven a long time ago but the debate today is not about ‘why’ but ‘who’ caused the paradise to fly away, leaving behind its miserable and yet romantic claimants.Say Kashmir, and the sweet aroma of pine takes over the mind fluttering among images of valley flowers,

While the valley is brewing to shivered cold, resorting to bone ache, and suddenly you get to hear the act, that tender your muscles and your brain starts oscillating in agony. While I was on the way to home, and as usual my phone keeps on beeping with variable feeds, and at a moment my eyes stuck to a feed, mentioning that a baby was thrown outside in a cartoon enveloped in polythene, across the road from the city’s maternity hospital Lal Ded. Not the first time, I got to hear such inhuman act, previously such incidents have filled the social networking sites with tetra byte data.

 

Kashmir, a Conservative populace with rigid religious beliefs, where such incidents dwindle the heart, to the core and ionise in the surroundings within fraction of the second.

,,, “oh foetid soul, you aren’t a burden,
Your cravings, your presence, is sacred,
” unworthy are those, who abandon you,
,,, “you are born to take nap at the realm of GOD,

This mischievous act is on surge in Kashmir citing numerous incidents in the past, Now concerning the aetiology of this social chaos, : over the years there has been a paradigm shift in the psychological, behavioural, living style of the people inhabiting valley, leading to variant changes, pertaining to psychosexual onslaught, Now we see pre-marital sexual relations, a non-serious concern leading to apathy in the ethos of society, the ramifications of this are vivid and perturbing, the couple especially in their teen ages, moved by their sudden hormonal changes engage in sexual relationships, and in certain cases, unaware of its complications, maybe due to lack of knowledge, debarring the use of protective devices, the female counterpart conceives and remains unaware for most of the time, as fear of surroundings, the societal rejection, the client fears to express the event to parents, till she develops such symptoms, and in reaction, either they go for illegal termination of pregnancy or wait for the term to deliver remaining in isolation carried out in privacy, and later the baby is abandoned.

In certain cases, the baby delivered from legal couple, go for termination, if it’s unwanted, or a female,, called female infanticide “in Kashmir such incidents are on record where foetus laden with blood were found in toilets, on the footsteps of shrines, some years back, an abandoned baby, caught by mob of dogs was noticed outside Lal Ded hospital, such incident shocked the consciousness of people,.

Congenital defects :Every single creation of God is not futile, but I can say, a sheer ignorance, the babies who are born with genetic defects have every right to continue life, even Stephen Hawkins was born with hereditary defect, still he rose to prominence, even normal human couldn’t think ever, contributes to the cause of abandoning babies, recently a horrendous incident captivated the conscious minds of valley where a father tried to Bury his live baby, citing the reasons of poverty, that he can’t afford the care of baby born with genetic defect.

Now describing the risk factors, loosening bondages from religious acuity, problems in socialisation, faults in upbringing, difficulties in coping up with puberty, lack of education, accelerate such incidents.

The treatment is more of a belief than literal.The old age adage holds true everywhere, we should focus on preventive strategies, we should be more religious, because not a single religion advocates such horrendous act, be more conscious when you go for such a relationship, we should profoundly act on such incidents, awareness schedule should be set up,
We need to develop legal resolutions for those abandoned, because we have many childless couples, so as to create balance.

Certainly at the end, those who abandon live births, are abandoning the humanity, the moment they opt for such gigantic mischief, they turn into wilds, and their ability to be human seizes.

(The writer is perusing graduation in Nursing at GMC, Srinagar. He can be reached at: [email protected])

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