With the ongoing state visit of French President Emmanuel Macron, the opposition Congress seems to be trying to revive the controversy it created on the Rafale deal by means of which it had made allegations ranging from cost to favouritism. The factual rebuttal to the Congress’s allegations has already been provided in our earlier articles “An Examination of the Rafale Case: The Old Non-Deal and the New Deal” and “Rafale: The What and the Why of the New Deal”.
But this time round, the Congress has claimed that the visiting French President has said that he has no objections to the Indian government disclosing the details of the Rafale deal. Based on this claim, the Congress has been running a poll on its Twitter handle as shown below:
Cherry-Picking & Distortion
The above claim made by the Congress is perhaps meant to mislead.
When one sees the French President’s interview in its entirety, it becomes clear that he actually explained in detail why the nitty-gritty of the deal cannot be disclosed. All he seemed to try to convey was the fact that it is no longer a matter of two governments (the Rafale deal is government-to-government), but that there are commercial and security interests involved in the deal which forbids the divulgence of details.
The reference to what the Congress claims President Macron said can be found in the India Today interview. So, let us refer to the original source of the news, that is the India Today website, first, before looking at the video.
Even though the headline of the news report may be misleading to an extent, the screenshots below (from the report) make it clear that the French President admits the following:
- There is indeed a “secrecy clause” in the deal which prevents the divulgence of details
- There is a business interest rationale behind such a clause
- The secrecy clause exists because of commercial agreement related to technical issues
- That the whole matter is extremely sensitive
Now, in this video of the French President’s interview, where the discussion on Rafale starts at 2.09 seconds, one can clearly hear what he had said. When at 3.50 seconds, the interviewer asks why the details of the deal cannot be made public, President Macron explains in terms of the above-mentioned issues and categorically emphasises the importance of the secrecy clause. He then gives a general suggestion if the Indian government were to arrange a discussion with the opposition or in Parliament and reveal “some of [the] elements which the government thinks it can reveal”, he or the French government would not be interfering.
Again, two crucial points are missing from the Congress’s claims on this issue:
- The French President never says that some of the details can be made public. He talks about a discussion with the opposition or in Parliament, which evidently means a careful, closed-door kind of discussion. The emphasis he puts on secrecy and security is categoric.
- In other words, unlike what the Congress and some sections of the media are implying, President Macron has not batted for disregarding the secrecy clause and disclosing all the details.
Praise for the Deal
If the Congress wants to build its case on the French President’s interview, it cannot then cherry-pick a statement, then distort and misrepresent it, and finally ignore all the other things he has said on Rafale.
Incidentally, President Macron also said that although the deal was not signed by his administration, he is fully backing it as it is a win-win for both countries. He made the following observations too:
- India signed a good deal which is in its national interest
- The industrial interests of workers and the people have been defended by the deal