If you thought this was a minor episode with no potential repercussions, you couldn’t be more wrong. The implications are huge. There are several theories doing the rounds already — of a larger cover-up by the IAF, of competitors goading the IAF to eliminate the French, of wanton indiscretions, you know the drill. As of now, however, Dassault insists that its Indian pointsperson, Posina V Rao, merely filed a complaint, and was being penalised for following rules. Obviously the IAF doesn’t see it that way. Mr Rao apparently sees himself as a whistleblower caught in the decidedly delicate crossfire of turf battles between the IAF and MoD, a place no one wants to ever be caught in, least of all the representative of a foreign arms company. Legal options could be afoot, I’m told. The IAF feels it has fool-proof reasons to blackball the Dassault man, and will stick to its guns. For a company that has remained compulsively off the scandal radar and deliberately low-profile to a fault, this new episode is a true nightmare. So what now?
There are several questions, as always. One, PV Rao couldn’t have made the complaint without the authorisation of his superiors in France — so was this a high-level faux pas by a company with possibly more experience in light-stepping around Indian government turfs than any of the other competitors? Two, if Dassault was merely a whistleblower on an act of corruption, why is the IAF cutting off the man who filed the complaint? Three, is there more to the Dassault complaint than meets the eye? Four, has Dassault come out with all the facts of the episode, or is there more that is not being revealed? Five, why wasn’t the base commander of Yelahanka considered an appropriate person to file the complaint with? Six, why has the MoD not fleshed out its stand on the episode? Seven, how did the other vendors face the corrupt IAF officer — did they bribe him, or were they not solicited at all — and if they did bribe him, will that matter now?