It was surprising that The Hindu should have printed half-truths without ascertaining the full details, and given ammunition to Congress President Rahul Gandhi who has exhausted his torrent of abuse against the Prime Minister and has only been looking for additional material with which to denigrate the country’s leader (Page 1, ‘Exclusive’, “MoD protested against PMO undermining Rafale negotiations”, February 8). The ethics of journalism warrant that the comments by the then Defence Minister should have also been published. Mr. Gandhi is only misleading people with ‘shoot and scoot’ comments for his political gains. His unjustified and abusive comments against the Prime Minister will surely rebound on him and the Congress party.
An indelible impression has gained currency that there is some hidden agenda/motive behind the publication of the “exclusive”. Officials associated with the Defence Ministry and the Indian negotiating team have categorically denied the charge of the Prime Minister’s Office having been involved in parallel negotiations. The highest court of the land too did not find anything adverse in the deal. There is not even an iota of evidence to show any kickback/quid pro quo. Then why jump the gun and cry foul? Defence procurement deals and negotiations are highly classified and are not subjects for discussion and debate in the public domain. As a well-wisher, I find it disturbing that the paper’s enviable image of upholding the highest standards of professional journalism stands tarnished.
The Hindu’s long-time readers did not seem to worry too much about the paper’s evolving political orientation because the quality of the content more than made up for the perceived lack of objectivity. However, the timing and selective leaks about the Rafale deal make one suspect that the paper is only too keen to lend a helping hand to the Congress party’s propaganda that the defence deal is tainted with corruption. Sure, there were procedural irregularities in the deal but these alone do not make it a corrupt transaction. The evidence ‘dug up’ so far seems inadequate to indict the government of serious wrong-doing. The Rafale story’s investigational gloss has failed to hide its sensational slant. It is certainly not a Bofors exposé redux.
I am shocked by letters from some readers castigating The Hindu for its revelations. As a long-time reader, I appreciate the efforts of the paper to bring out the truth in the public domain — which no other media outlet has done. Notwithstanding stout denials from the government, there remain unanswered pertinent questions. The common man wants to know: how a new company was preferred over a well-experienced defence public sector unit; why there was a three-fold increase in the price of the jets and whether the private company which has now been given the contract is indeed capable of meeting its contractual obligations in light of the problems being faced by its parent company.
That the then Defence Minister — who is naturally a part of the politics of his party and its government — tried to soothe the concerns raised by his Ministry officials is neither surprising nor pertinent to the report. The report was specifically about the negotiating team’s concerns and frustration over the PMO’s interference.
Those readers who appear to be “disappointed” that the The Hindu’s “standards”, “reputation” and “credibility” have been “besmirched” should well remember that it was this very same newspaper that exposed the corruption in the Bofors deal. It is hypocritical if these readers who are reverential about this paper’s reportage on Bofors back then, feel angry now over the reporting on the Rafale deal. Instead, as it was then, the government is now morally bound to order an impartial inquiry. ‘Rafale’ is an issue that has everyone, political or otherwise, asking for answers.