The more-than-coincidental closeness between US arms major Boeing and India’s Congress led by Rahul Gandhi raises insidious questions about whether a defence bigwig is pulling strings from behind the scenes of Indian politics raging over a phantom controversy
New Delhi: A recent New York Times report on how a shady Ukrainian business house bribed Indian officials and Congress Rajya Sabha MP KVP Ramachandra Rao for securing a titanium mining contract for Boeing in Andhra Pradesh has once again thrown the spotlight on Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s dogged opposition to the Rafale deal back home.
This bribery scandal started in 2006 when Boeing was desperately looking for titanium to go through its complete orders of Dreamliner 787 and had partnered with Ukranian oligarch Dmitry V Firtash and his Bothli Trade AG group. Firtash and Rao were indicted by the US Justice Department in 2013. The US is now entangled in a legal web to deport Firtash from Vienna.
This new discovery establishes that the Congress and its regimes in the recent past have been a close ally of Boeing, one of the toughest competitors of Rafale when it came to clinching the massive MMRCA deal with India. In the ongoing brouhaha over the Rafale deal, the fight is being led incidentally by the Congress.
Apart from this new connection, the UPA regime is also known to have “favoured” Boeing in other defence contacts.
A Boeing angle to the Rafale controversy is further embellished when one puts it in perspective: According to the sterling information shared by India’s national security establishment with MyNation, a top Congress leader had held meetings with US arms manufacturing firms days before accusations of a scam in the Rafale deal started flying.
“The Rafale deal was initialled between India and France on September 23, 2016. But, the Congress began to raise objections only in November 2017 in the run-up to the Gujarat elections. Pertinently, a top Congress leader, on a US tour just months before the accusations were made, met top executives of the US defence firms,” a top government source told MyNation, requesting anonymity.
MyNation is, as it had done earlier, withholding the names of the leader and the companies as they have not responded to our queries regarding the meeting.
MyNation had sent the queries to the Congress leader and the US companies separately, but has yet not received any response from either.
The meetings of the Congress leader were arranged by a party member who has had a long association with the US aviation industry, according to the source.
Government sources said it is difficult to understand why the Congress leader held meetings with arms manufacturers “more so, when he is not part of the government".
“The Congress leader, in the meetings, was accompanied by a number of young party leaders along with a senior US politician,” the sources said.
Meanwhile, the current NDA regime also unearthed another scam in UPA’s Rs 10,700-crore spy plane deal it struck in 2009 Boeing. After the details of the scam emerged in the Comptroller and Auditor General's (CAG) report tabled in Parliament, it was revealed that the deal signed during the Congress regime under prime minister Manmohan Singh was "incorrectly" awarded to Boeing, while European firm EADS CASA was the lowest bidder and deserved to have been given the contract.
The BJP has alleged unethical dealings. The party said that the defence ministry during the UPA regime had twice benefited Boeing by first inflating the price of the plane offered by a Spanish rival and then by signing a separate product support contract with the US firm later on.
The CAG has noted that in June 2017, Navy concluded an interim support agreement (ISA) with Boeing, at a cost of $131 million, for a period of three years, containing components of products support also. Hence, M/s Boeing was benefited twice. Firstly, by inflating M/s EADS bid and secondly, signing a separate product support contract with M/s Boeing at a much higher price, a top BJP leader had told MyNation.
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Last Updated Jan 2, 2019, 5:04 PM IST