In the wake of the latest media report on the Rafale deal, veteran Congress leader and former Defence Minister A K Antony on Friday questioned whether the PMO had any "special interest" to push the contract.
"Defence deals are the responsibility of the Ministry of Defence, why the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) took such special interest in it. Whom does it want to protect, the PMO has something to hide. The Prime Minister will have to answer these questions," he told reporters here.
He also demanded that a joint parliamentary committee should be set up to probe the alleged irregularities.
Meanwhile, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman rebuked Congress president Rahul Gandhi's allegation based on a media report that claimed the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) ran parallel negotiations with France on the multi-billion Rafale fighter jet deal.
"A newspaper published a file noting written by the (then) Defence Secretary. If a newspaper publishes a noting, then the ethics of journalism will demand that the newspaper publishes the then Defence Minister's reply as well," Sitharaman said.
"Then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar Ji replied to that MoD note saying 'remain calm, nothing to worry, everything is going alright.' Now, what do you call the NAC led by Sonia Gandhi's interference in the earlier PMO? What was that," the Defence Minister asked in the Lok Sabha.
Earlier in the day, the Centre dismissed a media report that claimed that Defence Ministry officials had raised concerns over the direct involvement of Prime Minister's Office in the Rafale deal and said that the report failed to publish response of the former minister Manohar Parrikar's note to the MoD over negotiations in the Rafale deal.
At a time when the government is facing backlash for not getting sovereign guarantee from France in the Rafale jet deal, it is emerging that the then French prime minister had written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying that their government would fully back the obligations made by their firms in the contract.
"I hereby confirm that the government of the French republic is fully committed in doing whatever is necessary to make sure that Dassault Aviation and MBDA of France, each in their own respect, do their utmost to fully respect their obligations in accordance with aforesaid inter-governmental agreement and annexed supporting protocols," said the letter in possession of ANI.
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