Congress’ Rahul Gandhi is leading the charge against Rafale. But there are equally powerful, though largely faceless, behind-the-scene operators, who want the fighter deal to be shelved. One of them is the combine of Anil Ambani–Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL). Although HAL is a state-owned company, there are foreign vested interests involved. For years, HAL has worked closely with Russian vendors. If the former had become the majority beneficiary of the Rs. 30,000 crore offset clause of Rafale, a huge chunk would have been pocketed by the Russians. Such a huge hole in their pockets hasn’t pleased them. Narendra Modi’s response: buy S-400 Triumf, the world’s most lethal surface-to-air missile system from Vladimir Putin, amid a threat of sanctions from the US. Another loser is Rafale’s global competitor, Eurofighter Typhoon, which is jointly manufactured by a consortium of Airbus, BAE Systems, and Leonardo in Germany. Guess, who is the Eurofighter’s official agent in India? The son-in-law of a newly nominated firebrand BJP MP. Then there is the anti-Modi, cross-party political troika that has criticised Modi for a couple of years: Former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha, lawyer Prashant Bhushan and actor-turned-politician Shatrughan Sinha have trained their guns on the Prime Minister, as well as a prominent Cabinet Minister. Obviously, if India buys defence equipment from global vendors, there has to be wheels within wheels.
VOL. 12 | ISSUE 7 | OCT 2018