Did Macron tell Gandhi that there was no ‘secrecy’ clause preventing the Indian government from revealing details about the Rafale deal?
Short answer, no.
Amid drama in Lok Sabha over the no-confidence motion today (20 July), Congress president Rahul Gandhi claimed French President Emmanuel Macron had told him that there was no ‘secrecy’ clause in the Rafale deal preventing India from revealing the price of the fighter jets and other details.
“The French president told me that there is no pact with India,” Gandhi was quoted by News18 as saying on the floor of the House.
Gandhi, along with former prime minister Manmohan Singh, had met with Macron in March 2018 during the latter’s visit to India.
The Congress, which led the United Progressive Alliance government responsible for the delay in purchase of the fighter jets from France, has been attacking the Modi government over the deal. It has accused the government of negotiating a bad deal with France and indulging in corruption. It has demanded that the centre reveal all the details about the Rafale deal, including the price.
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman refused to disclose the price of the fighter jets, citing a secrecy pact with France and a threat to national security.
“As per ‘Article-10’ of the Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) between Government of India and Government of France on the purchase of Rafale aircraft, the protection of the classified information and material exchanged under IGA is governed by the provisions of the Security Agreement signed between the two nations in 2008,” the minister had said in reply to a question raised in Rajya Sabha.
So, was the Congress president’s speech short on facts?
Short answer, yes.
In a statement issued following Gandhi’s speech, French authorities have said that the agreement signed with India “legally binds the two States to protect the classified information provided by the partner”.
We have noted the statement of Mr Rahul Gandhi before the Indian Parliament. France and India concluded in 2008 a agreement, which legally binds the two States to protect the classified information provided by the partner that could impact security and operational capabilities of the defence equipment of India or France. These provisions naturally apply to the IGA concluded on 23 September 2016 on the acquisition of 36 aircraft and their weapons.French statement
Moreover, statements made by the French President on the Rafale deal during his visit to India offer some clarity on the issue of the secrecy clause.
In an interview with India Today, Macron said, “The deal is very sensitive. We can't reveal details because of business reasons.”
Here is the excerpt from @IndiaToday interview with @EmmanuelMacron which is rocking Parliament. Listen yourself to what French President said when he was asked about revealing details of the Rafale deal. Fact checking @RahulGandhi speech pic.twitter.com/orq039Ae1w— Rahul Kanwal (@rahulkanwal) July 20, 2018
“Part of the absence of answers to some technical issues is these commercial agreements and the interests of different companies,” Macron was quoted as saying in the interview.
Moreover, Macron had praised the Modi government for negotiating a “very good” deal with his country. “I wasn't part of it, but I have to say the negotiations were a win-win situation for both of us,” he had said.
Therefore, it is unlikely that Macron would have given Gandhi a different version of events.
Doubts, if any, have already been cleared by French authorities in the statement issued refuting Gandhi’s claim in Lok Sabha.