Beneath the heap of accusations and counter-accusations, formed over the flotsam of the volley fire exchanged between the opposition and the Modi government over the Nirav Modi scandal, we are missing the details of a larger scam related to the Rafale Jet deal of the Indian Air Force, in which the senior Modi – Narendra Modi and his coterie of Hindutva terror mongers caused a greater loss to the public exchequer than what Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi could collectively do by robbing the Punjab National Bank. Despite the involvement of people at the highest echelon of power in a scam that compromises national security and opens another gateway for one of the richest crony capitalists of India to enrich his coffer by grabbing a lucrative business deal that was originally set to go to a public sector company, the corporate-controlled media remains mute on the subject and acts dumb too. On the other side, the opposition parties, which have a lot of skeletons in their own cupboards, aren’t able to probe and chase this case of gigantic corruption to its conclusion. The combination of these favourable conditions is providing a leverage to Narendra Modi and his government and it’s allowing them to retain the BJP’s holier-than-thou image in public.
The Rafale Jet deal started during the tenure of the UPA I government in 2007 when the government invited tenders for “Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft” (MMRCA) from the large military corporations of the West to upgrade the hardware of the Indian Air Force. Beating other competitors like American-made Lockheed Martin’s F-16 and Boeing F/A-18, Russian-made MIG-35, Sweden’s Saab’s Gripen and Eurofighter Typhoon, the French company Dassault’s Rafale won the contract. After several rounds of negotiation, the UPA II government signed a treaty with Dassault in 2012 for 126 fighter jets at a price of ₹54,000 crore ($10.2 billion at 2012 rates), out of which 18 were to be delivered in a ready-to-fly condition, while the rest were to be manufactured at the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) facility in India for which Dassault agreed to do a knowledge and technology transfer to the PSU.
Soon after coming to power, Narendra Modi scrapped the Rafale Jet deal in April 2015 during his visit to France along with Anil Ambani, who heads the Reliance Defence Limited (RDL). Modi rejected the previous order for 126 Rafale Jets and initiated a new deal under which India would order 36 Rafale Jets in ready-to-fly condition, equipped with Meteor missiles and better radar-dodging technology at the price of ₹58,000 crore ($8.7 billion in 2015 rates), which means that each Rafale Jet would now cost more than double to Indian taxpayers. So basically, Indian taxpayers are going to pay ₹58,000 crore for 36 Rafale Jets while they were getting 126 at ₹55,000 crore with 18 Rafale Jets in a ready-to-fly condition and the rest manufactured in HAL using the technology transferred by Dassault.
If this wasn’t enough, Dassault dropped its partnership arrangement with HAL and signed a pact with Anil Ambani’s RDL in October 2016. Under the new partnership between Dassault and RDL, the French company will provide technical know-how to RDL, which will do all sort of maintenance and repairing of Rafale Jets in India, which means that the Anil Ambani-owned RDL will virtually have a monopoly on the Rafale Jets throughout their lifetime.
As of now, the Anil Ambani-owned RDL has bagged orders worth ₹22,000 crore from the Rafale Jet deal. Such a strategic partnership could realise only because Narendra Modi and the bureaucracy led by him allowed Anil Ambani to get richer by unapologetically ending the business prospects of HAL. Don’t forget, when Dhirubhai Ambani died in 2002, his empire was worth $18.5 billion. In a span of 14 years Mukesh Ambani’s wealth has reached $41.1 billion, while Anil Ambani is standing at $2.7 billion. Hard work is something these capitalists never experience in their lifetime, hence, it’s sheer cronyism and greasing many palms that take them up on the ladder of wealth.
This new dubious partnership between Dassault and Reliance Defence Ltd. and Narendra Modi’s tactic support to it, shows how shamelessly the Modi regime is jeopardising the national security of India by involving the crony capitalists, who fund the Hindutva camp, in grabbing defence deals at the cost of those very public sector companies that have a better track record in manufacturing military hardware and supplying them. Defence expert Ajai Shukla provided a detailed analysis on the Rafale Jet scam in his blog, and he tells us how the Modi government is jeopardising national security by going military shopping without any expert and by without heeding to the suggestions of his own Ministry of Defence.
Soon after assuming office, Narendra Modi’s government allowed 100 per cent FDI in defence manufacturing and tactically allowed the foreign big capital to buy stakes in the Indian defence industry and thereby made India’s security quite vulnerable. The unholy alliance between the Modi regime and the top crony-comprador capitalists like Adani, Ambani, etc., gave the latter a golden opportunity to venture into India’s lucrative defence industry, with the support and investment from their foreign corporate investors and stake claims on the ever-increasing budget allocation for military hardware.
Budget allocation for defence and the actual expenditure of the military establishment increases considerably each year in India. The government may cut down the allocations for education, health or welfare programmes, however, defence never faces the music because by creating a toxic environment of xenophobia, fanned by extreme chauvinism, the ruling classes of India ensure that a hysteria prevails in the country in favour of a war so that it can be used to justify extensive defence spending and military expansionism of the Indian state. As there is an emotive tug about the military establishment among the middle-class and elites of urban India, therefore, the unjustified rise in defence expenditures and the involvement of the foreign corporations in the defence sector can be still justified by the BJP. Narendra Modi has hijacked this opportunity to ensure that only his voice remains on top and the rest are withered from the public space through a bombardment of rhetoric against the opponents of the regime.
When the Modi government can flirt with national security by endorsing a dubious defence deal like the Rafale Jet purchase scam, it’s beyond anyone’s anticipation that how much these saffron agents can stoop before the foreign capital and sell-off the country’s security in lieu of money coming to their party coffer. By raking up the demagogy over sham nationalism, by employing an army of Hindutva rabble-rousers and apparatchiks of communal hatred, the RSS will try to shield itself, the BJP and the Modi government from all accusations of treason. The BJP’s campaign over nationalism, its constant opposition-battering over the concept of “patriotism” and its toady TV anchors, who would leave no stone unturned to fuel chauvinism and incite the people of the majority community against the neighbouring countries and the minority communities to instigate support for an aggressive war effort, etc. are the smoke screens used by the saffron camp and the Modi regime to camouflage its intention of selling-off India to foreign corporate houses and their Indian crony-comprador allies.
There is a dire need to contain the flow of Indian people’s money to the coffers of Ambani and their like through such shoddy deals, also there is a need to immediately stop the successors of Bangaru Laxman, the former BJP president who was caught on camera accepting bribe to push defence deals, from selling-off national security to foreign big corporations in lieu of bigger commission. As its coffer swells with ill-gotten money from domestic and foreign corporations, the BJP is the only party in India that can afford to buy manpower for itself even at the remotest corner of the country and win elections, one after another, without any hindrance in each state. The massive spending by the BJP and the RSS to build up a large Hindutva army to establish their fascist dictatorship on the country and build up a saffron-terror network, in the lines of the Abhinav Bharat movement of the Hindutva bogey, is possible due to this incessant flow of money. It’s this very money from the Rafale Jet scam or the one received by corporate bootlicking that allows the BJP to buy prime land in Delhi and build up massive offices, spend hundreds of millions to hire charter planes, luxury cars, houses and foreign property for its leaders. However, lest the people revolt against its fascist and utmost corrupt government, Narendra Modi and his coterie have in their arsenal weapons like communalism and jingoism to misguide and disunite the people.
Our eyes must read between the lines to understand the inevitability of a catastrophe to the Indian economy, society and national integrity, should the fascist Hindutva camp with Narendra Modi at its helm continues to rule unchallenged. There is no way that the Narendra Modi-led government will cease its corrupt dealings with the crony-comprador capitalist lobby like what it did during the Rafale Jet scam. Expecting the Modi government to listen to its conscience would mean fuelling more communal tensions and robbing India more vigorously than ever, as the conscience of the fascists swindles only towards destruction and devastation. It’s imperative for the Indian people, its politically democratic and progressive forces, to erect barriers and prevent the Modi regime from selling-off the nation with similar impunity in the future. It’s only a nationwide people’s resistance struggle against the traitor BJP and the Modi government that can protect India, which is in deep crisis right now. What role you’ll play in saving your country depends on how much concerned you’re for the cause of the nation and its future security. It’s time for us to rethink, as thinking, as a power, is withering away due to the unhindered fascist assault and propaganda. It’s our nation and its future lies in our present decisions and actions.
Pramod Singh is based in Patna. He is a political analyst who continuously monitors the events taking place around him. He is interested in learning foreign languages and he is an occasional poet.