The role of middlemen in both the bid process and the Rafale sale agreement must be probed

Context: More than a year following the arrival of the first batch of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France, the controversy over Rafale refuses to die down.

About Rafael:

  • Rafael is a twin engine MMRCA(Med. Multi-role Combat Aircraft) made by French manufacturer Dassault Aviation.
  • It  was selected as lowest bid in 2012 for India’s MMRCA(Med. Multi-role Combat Aircraft) contest(deemed as a contract so large that was termed as ‘mother of all contracts).
  • The high quality of the planes fit to the requirements of the Indian Air Force, which has been desperate to augment its fighter squadrons.
  • About the old terms of the contract: Initially, the aircraft was to be built in India under technology transfer, but after several years of negotiations there was a gridlock.
  • The New 2015 contract: Surprise announcement  for 36 aircraft(in fly-away condition), spares, weapons and a five year maintenance guarantee for 7.87bn Euro deal on PM’s 2015 France visit.
    • The Deal includes Aircraft, spares, weapons & a maintenance & performance guarantee for 5 years. Further, It has 50% offset clause to be executed by Dassault Aviation & its partners.
  • First batch of the aircraft were inducted in 2021 as Squadron 17: Golden Arrows. The completion of deliveries was expected by the end of 2022.

Various Criticisms about the aircraft:

  • Too small number of aircrafts: It would make economic, operational & logistical sense to have more numbers; 36 is too small a number.
  • Too expensive: Cost of basic aircraft is ₹670Cr; But are bought for ₹1600Cr each. The cost of weapons and the spares it too high.
  • Doubts of DPP procedure not being followed: as DAC didn’t authorise the deal first, which is the general procedure. Further, the removal of anti-corruption clauses, waiving the requirement of a bank guarantee among other issues related to the India-France Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) signed in 2016 have been raised.
  • Doubts on Selection process of offset partner: Dassault in 2015 said that HAL is in line with the requirements. However, it has now chosen private players instead. The Government has claimed that the man hours required to produce the aircraft  by HAL in India would be 2.7 times higher than the man hours required by the French side.
  • Charges of Role of middlemen: a French portal, Mediapart’s articles point to the dubious role of middlemen both in the proposal to buy 126 aircraft that was withdrawn, and later in the IGA for flyaway aircraft in 2016. Ithas  published a set of alleged fake invoices, and claimed that Dassault Aviation paid middleman and defence contractor Sushen Gupta over €7 million in kickbacks between 2007-2012, during Congress-led UPA rule, and has claimed that the CBI had proof of this since October 2018.

The CAG Report:

  • In its price-redacted audit report on the Rafale deal, the CAG report, tabled in Parliament in February 2019, while examining the earlier bid process between 2007-12, had pointed out procedural violations in defence procurement — Dassault’s technical bid was rejected and later it was allowed to incorporate India-specific enhancements to meet bid-compliant qualitative requirements.
  • It recommended that the defence acquisition process needed reforms and streamlining — points that are buttressed by the new revelations that shed light on the role of defence middlemen in mucking up the procurement process to favour a particular vendor.

Conclusion: At the very least, investigative agencies such as the CBI and the ED must probe Mr. Gupta’s role in the bid process and the IGA. The Government cannot just wish away the questions that are repeatedly emerging about the Rafale deal and must open an investigation into the procurement process. After all, defence preparedness and national security interests dictate that operational readiness goes hand-in-hand with procedural propriety in defence procurement.

2. Does India have a right to burn fossil fuels?

Debate on Coal Production:

  • Argument that India should continue to produce coal: The crux of the theoretical argument is that since India has neither historically emitted nor currently emits carbon anywhere close to what the global North has, or does, in per capita terms, and thus it has no reason to commit to declining dependence on coal, at least in the near future. 
  • It should ask for a higher and fairer share in the global carbon budget
  • There is no doubt that this carbon budget framework is an excellent tool to understand global injustice but to move from there to our ‘right to burn’ is a big leap. 
  • According to the Ministry of Coal, India’s net coal import went up from ₹782.6 billion in 2011­-12 to ₹1,155.0 billion in 2020­21.  India is currently among the largest importers of coal in the world.

Global Injustices: 2 TYPES OF INJUSTICE

  • INJUSTICE AMONG THE NATIONS:   The global South, especially its poor, will unduly bear the effect of climate change because of its tropical climate and high population density along the coastal lines. So, arguing for more coal is like shooting oneself in the foot. 
  • INJUSTICE AMONG RICH & POOR: Injustice is not at the level of the nation-states alone; there is such injustice between the rich and the poor within nations and between humans and non­human species. 

The DEADLOCK in negotiations: The North justifying operating coal mines since the South continues to emit more and the South negotiating for a higher share in carbon budget based on the past emissions of the North.  

The Argument against Coal

  1. Renewable alternative: Economic development requires energy but that does not translate into energy by burning coal. We have other cleaner forms of energy available. The Argument in favour of coal is on account of its cost, reliability and domestic availability alone. With the reduction in the prices of renewable energy, this argument has diminished.
  2. Lower Cost of electricity: from renewable energy sources has been declining sharply over the last decade and is already less than fossil fuel-­based electricity generation.
  3. High degree of Reliability: variability of such sources to a large extent and, with technological progress.
  4. The abundance of renewable natural resources: in the tropical climate can give India a head start in this competitive world of technology.  India has no dearth of solar energy. 
  5. South­-South collaborations:  These can further help India avoid the usual patterns of trade between the North and the South, and may help address the issue of surplus labour  provide decentralised access to clean energy to the poor and  it simultaneously addresses the issues of employment, technology, energy poverty and self ­reliance.


  • Working class must demand greener path from the global elite: The need of the hour is a global progressive agenda that does not pit the working class of the North against the South but the working people of the world as a whole resisting the global ruling elite in its aggressive and dangerous model of competitive emissions.
  • We should make the global North pay for the energy transition in the South.
  • Negotiating from a Moral high ground standpoint: Chalking out an independent, greener path to development may create conditions for such negotiations and give the South the moral high ground to force the North to come to the table, like South Africa did at Glasgow.




No comments yet. Why don’t you start the discussion?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *