Sunday, June 29, 2014

Indian Newspaper Flies With MMRCA Ditch Story, Journalist Disowns

"I disown this report and disassociate myself completely from it. It should have been attributed not to me but the person responsible for introducing gross distortions. I've seen nothing like this in my 19 years as a reporter, 15 of which were with the Hindustan Times & CNN-IBN. This is serious breach of journalistic ethics and reflects the crisis in at least a section of the media. I wish to come out clean to protect my professional reputation."

That's Vishal Thapar's statement a moment ago to Livefist. Now, for what happened:

Indian weekend newspaper The Sunday Guardian today led prominently with this story headlined 'Typhoon, Gripen Back In Fray, Rafale Deal Split Wide Open', with my good friend and veteran defence correspondent Vishal Thapar's byline. The report outlines how India's Rafale deal is on shaky ground with the finish-line in sight, and that the Gripen and Typhoon smell blood. It's a story that's been doing the rounds, but this report rounds it up and gives it more prominence than most others, which have only insinuated the possibility of trouble. But here's what happened just 90 minutes after the newspaper tweeted out the story after midnight last night:

Thapar bolstered this by posting the following on a Facebook group populated and run by Indian defence correspondents:

Before sending my the statement at the top of this post, an angry Vishal said what happened was a 'grave distortion' and 'completely unethical'.

While Vishal has unequivocally disowned the report, the questions now, of course, are as follows: Why has Vishal distanced himself from the report? Who introduced the alleged 'distortions' if any and why? Is the report inaccurate? Are there vested interests at play? Is this just a newsroom tiff or something bigger?

UPDATE: The Sunday Guardian has suffixed the report in question with this word to its readers:

CLARIFICATION: 

[It] has been brought to our notice that the writer of the above report, Mr Vishal Thapar has "disowned" it on social media, both on Facebook and Twitter, thereby implying that it was edited in an unprofessional manner.

News reporting needs to be based on facts and balanced rather than reflect any particular interest. Such a consideration is particularly relevant in matters of weapons procurement, especially on the scale involved in the MMRCA deal. Arms lobbies have proliferated in the national capital, with attendant inducements and allurements.

A reading of the news report will show that the version published is balanced and factual.

Mr Thapar was invited to set out his specific objections, if any, to the report soon after he had, for reasons that are not clear, impugned it on social media. He has yet to do so.

The Sunday Guardian reiterates its commitment to the highest standards of journalistic ethics and responsibility, even if such an insistence may sometimes bring it into disagreement with any particular journalist.

The report in question, in common with the others published in the newspaper, has been edited such as to present a factual, balanced and comprehensive overview of the MMRCA situation.

We therefore reject in totality Mr Thapar's rant on social media while remaining in the dark about the motives behind it. [Unquote]

33 comments :

Ramandeep Bajwa said...

If he is disowning the report why is the story carrying his byline?

Anonymous said...

NSR say ---

Whatever is the truth in this story is and/or is not important...

What is important is that NDTV has a story which states that it will cost Rs 100,00 crores over 10 years for 126 Rafales...

That is equivalent to present day $127 million per plane...
It is too expensive to even think about buying because India's air dominance is impeccable and no need to panic at all...
India should produce LCA/Tejas at war footing and add tanks to extend range...
They should update Tejas continuously in blocks to make it a formidable one...

India should order more of SU-30MKI and Mig-29K with sophisticated BVRAAM's from Russia and other international players...

India urgently needs submarines, helicopters, navy upgrades, field guns (155/45, 52)Tanks, anti-tank missiles, radars, etc...

So do not bankrupt India and hurt other pressing needs...

Please do not listen to fear mongers in IAF...Rafale can't dare to go into Tibet as NDTV says because Chinese already has a saturated air defense system...it is not a laughing matter...

Think about fiscal health of India first...

Saptarsi said...

Shiv, it's about time you start filtering comments on your blog. You can probably enforce an approval system where you personally filter out trolls like Satish Chandra. He's just a pain in the rear end.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, for my french view, that show a big problem of credibility of some indian media press and the misinfomration in account of some interest. it is not the first time and would be not last time, but it is very nice exemple.

if Virshal Thapar disagre that, It would be interessting to know the real article it wanted write about mmrca on its own blog.
it must publish its opinion about it. it is not a problem if it is in defavor or in favor of choice mmrca result, but to have an objectiv analyze behind personal understanding.

Anonymous said...

The real question is who paid and how much to plant this fake ? Obviously, it is one of the european companies behind the rejects Typhoon and Gripen.

Debdyuti said...

This guy Satish Chandra, is the pinnacle of mental retardation. Hope he dies soon and gets rid of this agony.

The Cartoonist said...

Good job Vishal for calling foul. I hope the government will punish those paying for distorted news, this is grave mocking democracy.

I don't think Saab and Eurofighter are smelling blood. I rather think their reps in Delhi are trying last ditch manuver. I hope they get sacked. They afraid to loose very lucrative job as soon as contract is signed. And dhire dhire that moment is coming. Ho raha hai!

Go Katrina. Jai Hind.

Satish Chandra is an Asshole said...

I thought you were going to moderate comments. One idiot is ruining your entire blog. If you want me to do it, I'll do it.

Rahul(Kolkata) said...

Lobbies at work here...Agents of losing vendors...

Ajai Shukla had said the same thing in his blog Broadsword, although by giving it a 'twist' so that it does not become direct thing unlike Thapar's version...Ajai has said: 'With no Rafale deal in sight, Eurofighter and SAAB are retaining a top level executive in New Delhi'....

But didn't Vishal Thapar used to work for News X channel? If I remember correctly, News X had broadcast a debate "Mother of all Defence Deals" wherein the moderator had the strong view that MMRCA project should be cancelled as it is a waste of taxpayer's money and India cannot afford that...In that debate, Vishal Thapar, the defence journalist was giving his inputs as a specialist....Check out for that video by the name mentioned above in youtube.....

But can someone enlighten me on the Facebook forum maintained by defence journalists....As a defence enthuasist, I will love to follow the page....

Anonymous said...

The paper issued this statement as an update.

"CLARIFICATION

It has been brought to our notice that the writer of the above report, Mr Vishal Thapar has "disowned" it on social media, both on Facebook and Twitter, thereby implying that it was edited in an unprofessional manner.

News reporting needs to be based on facts and balanced rather than reflect any particular interest. Such a consideration is particularly relevant in matters of weapons procurement, especially on the scale involved in the MMRCA deal. Arms lobbies have proliferated in the national capital, with attendant inducements and allurements.

A reading of the news report will show that the version published is balanced and factual.

Mr Thapar was invited to set out his specific objections, if any, to the report soon after he had, for reasons that are not clear, impugned it on social media. He has yet to do so.

The Sunday Guardian reiterates its commitment to the highest standards of journalistic ethics and responsibility, even if such an insistence may sometimes bring it into disagreement with any particular journalist.

The report in question, in common with the others published in the newspaper, has been edited such as to present a factual, balanced and comprehensive overview of the MMRCA situation.

We therefore reject in totality Mr Thapar's rant on social media while remaining in the dark about the motives behind it."

Anonymous said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x9tvdjDAr1U

Satpathy said...

I completely agree with the comments issued by the editors and publishers of the Sunday Guardian. Whose interests is Vishal Thapar trying to protect ? I see nothing that shouldn't have been published in the article. It seemed every bit balanced and measured. If however, Mr Thapar wanted to not have his name associated with a report that was overly critical of the UPA's bias towards Rafale or towards Dassault, he should work for the latter - and not be in the business of journalism !
The Rafale deal is too expoensive and the Indian tax payers cannot afford this white elephant at a time when the economy seems to be sliding back into sub 4% y-o-y growth. In this economic climate it only seems logical for the MoD to look into all options - including cancelling the MMRCA deal and having HAL/ ADA collaborate with SAAB on the design of the Tejas MK-II instead.

Anonymous said...

India is infiltrsted by anglos agents one of whom was and is ex unelected Pm mm Singh the traitor.

Anonymous said...

What Mr. Satish chandra writes has some important truth in it viz. India is infiltrated by English and American agents at variour level and that angl spies through traitors like mm Singh and ahullawallia have undermined Indian defence and economic social and cultural integrity and also they anglos created terrorism inbindia fist Sikh terrorists then taliban types later on

Anonymous said...

Vishal Thapar deleted his tweets. I hope this will be settled in friendly atmosphere and that it was only an act of passion (personal pride) and not something fishy.

captainjohann said...

If India cannot afford Rafale then it cannot afford typhoon and Gripen.

Anonymous said...

NSR says ---

With new defense production policy, I am sure some of the companies will establish full production lines with complete technology transfers to make whatever kind of MMRCA fighter much cheaper than $127 million/plane...

Not worth the money or air dominance if China acquires or comes up with their own 5th generation fighter...
Rafale does not have superior aerodynamics of SU-35 fighter and it can't even get closer to it...

Since India already has full production facilities for Mig-29 and SU-30MKI, produce additional 4++ generation planes with Russia after hard bargain for full 100% TOT including engines and radars...

Use the rest of the money for all other pressing projects, especially submarines, etc....

Satpathy said...

@captainjohann
Yes, Indian cannot afford either of the three fighters and the truth is that the country nor the IAF needs them or rather in the quantities that the IAF claims they are needed.

The Eurofighter is every bit as expensive as the Rafale but not the Gripen NG. Fly away cost of the Gripen is about 80M ( Brazil price....the MMRCA qoute would have been lower) as opposed to $110M for the Rafale and $120M for the Eurofighter. The operational costs for the same are about $4000, $16000 and $ 18,500 for the E/F. So, who are we kidding ?
The NG is about 30-35% cheaper to buy and 300% cheaper to operate.

Better still, SAAB had offered to collaborate with ADA/HAL on the Tejas MK-II re-design effort and even offered to integrate the Selex Vixen AESA on it. The NG is also powered by the same power-plant as the Tejas MK-II, so this collaboration would have made sense on several counts , not just on cost savings.

Satpathy said...

India needs to be self reliant in defence and stop lining the wallets of foreign governments. The IAF is to blame as much as ADA/HAL for the failure of the Tejas. Look at how successfully the Navy has adopted an aggressive plan to indigenize leveraging PSU an Indian private defense outfit capabilities. If the Indian Navy could do it, why not the IAF ?

There could be two ways forward given where we stand :
(i) Order the Rafale in smaller quantities ---> may be 3 squadrons or so.

(ii) Scrap the MMRCA contract and have SAAB collaborate with ADA/HAL to make the Tejas MK-II more potent hat it otherwise would be and order teh Tejas MK-II in bigger numbers.

(iii) Purchase the Gripen NG in smaller quantities in An FMS deal and expedite the AMCA development and scrap the FGFA.

Kana said...

the guardian's response is interesting by what it does not address. the guardian never came close to claiming 'Thapar submitted this exact article and/or agreed to all editorial changes'. i.e. they evade the core issue of whether they misrepresented the article as Thapur's own work/opinion. that sounds worthy of a story in it's own right, and only full email etc evidence being released/leaked/etc can really back it up.

Anonymous said...

Vishal Thapar and crying professionalism...laughable!

Lucky said...

Shiv Aroor Ji I have a suggestion for the present government I will appreciate if you can let your reader know what you think about it. Since India fighter jet squadron strength is all time low of 32 then recommended 42, I think India should request France to manufacture 63 of them in their country and rest can be assemble at HAL. Parallelism in manufacturing certaining assure our airforce to get them earlier since its being delayed for 10 years. As far I know assemblying at HAL increase the cost also so it will help Indian airforce to save money which can be utilised somewhere else.

Rakesh

Anonymous said...

If deal is scrapped, at least 5 more years and more billions would be lost in processing an alternate solution.
- Eurofighter is worst case : partners still haven't funded integration of AESA, of stand-off tactical weapons like JSOW, AASM or Brimstone; of Cruise missile; of a suppression of enemy air defence (SEAD) capability; of anti-ship or of reconnaissance. Such funding will never come: UK and Italy have stopped investing in Typhoon in favour of US JSF. India would pay (+3 Bn US$?) and it would take +5 years. Eurofighter known for VERY expensive flying: cost : 56000 to 63000 € per flying hour in Austria (see report by their CAG: http://www.rechnungshof.gv.at/fileadmin/downloads/2013/berichte/teilberichte/bund/Bund_2013_02/Bund_2013_02_3.pdf), 74000 € pfh in Germany (1 lac $!!!): http://mobil.n-tv.de/incoming/Teure-Flugstunde-des-Eurofighter-article1374061.html. See UK NAO report: http://www.nao.org.uk/report/management-of-the-typhoon-project/. Assuming a standard 250 hours/year/jet and 6000 hour/30 year life cycle, you get similar UK figures.
- Gripen is small jet built by a neutral country for pacifist air forces. Just not tailored for India: size of India, size of China, serious neighborhood. It takes 2 for the job of 1 Rafale, except 2 Gripen can't cover 2 times the distance :-). So, Gripen would cost more for same effect. Plus, Gripen NG is still paper aircraft, don't expect any deliveries before 2022 / 2024 approx.
- LCA Mk2 with or without help from Saab is still distant dream, same performance limitations as Gripen.
- JSF and FGFA: two Fifth Generation Flammable Aircraft :-) (both suffered fire on board in recent weeks). F-35 is fiscal and programmatic train-wreck, PAK FA / FGFA seems headed same way, both will have more than uncertain performance.
- Su-30 is often presented as safe way out of MMRCA. But Russian maintenance, reliability and life cycle cost are known very lousy. Su-27 airframe family is late 70s, same as F-16, F-18, Mig-29, Mirage 2000. Ok for other 10 years but soon obsolete.

Anonymous said...

NSR says ---

All over the world, companies are buying into each other or putting up joint companies to design, develop, and manufacture defense product as it became very expensive to go solo...

SAAB has too many products that India needs and they are ready to team up with Indian companies...who does not want it with so many billions at stake...

The best choice may be for India to buy 49 percent of SAAB and sell 49 percent of HAL or a new company to SAAB...

Producing in India will be cheap and it will give advantage to SAAB so both can buy for themselves and sell more for the world at cheapest possible way...

So I think they should start thinking of teaming up notwithstanding the MMMRCA issue...

Neelam Mathews said...

Vishal should insist the original copy is released- or he should release it himself.
Editors should always show edited copy to authors.

Anonymous said...

If people think you can just buy large chunks of Saab or even the whole company, think again.

It's protected from hostile take-overs and further more almost all products have tachnology with Swedish state ownership. Gripen is a so called strategic product protected by the parliament.

Anonymous said...

One stooge trying to come to the defense of another. This is ludicrous !!! Before Vishal can demand anything of his editors/publishers he himself needs to come clean as to how much money he has been paid by Dassault to plant articles in the media that favor the Rafale deal ? This double jeopardy serves him right. Indian journos should stop living on the edge....and betray the public trust that the citizens of this country have placed on their shoulders.

Anonymous said...

Rafale deal is being sabotaged by vested interests. We all know who it is. Planting stories and running blogs. As the Rafale deal is coming to a closure many counterparts are nervous that Typhoon future is all but closed. This is a make or break for EF.

Anonymous said...

NSR says ---

DNA reporting that India considering buying only 80 Rafales instead of 126 because of cost escalation...

I think whole thing should be cancelled due to new defense tie up with foreign companies and then reopened with a new RFP...

It would also be best to develop Tejas on war footing and then ordering some more Mig-29 and SU-30MKIs to help...

Need to bargain with Russia for complete manufacturing and maintenance TOT...otherwise, pretty soon these planes will start falling off the skies like Mig-21, 23, 27...

With new defense policy, India has a chance to get out of import cycle...

Satpathy said...

Yes, looks the numbers will be cut to between 60 - 80 and Dassault given the option possibly build half of them in France and the other half in India.
I hear the current cost structure proposed by Dassault for the 126 fighters is in nose bleed territory - $ 30B, which for 4+ gen fighters is pure madness, dare I say.
The perfect compromise is as I had suggested earlier :

(i) Reduce the numbers on the Rafale and
(ii) Engage SAAB on the Tejas MK-II
(iii) Reinvest heavily in the AMCA
and scrap the FGFA.

Anonymous said...

NSR says ---

Trust me, a bad deal is worse one to live with than a no deal at all...

The issue at hand is cost, cost, cost...

A new issue is life cycle costs...

Another issue - Original contract said full TOT and why is France charging us for it?

They are rushing because they want to sell older version and then charge us again for upgrading it to F-3R version...
just like they are doing it for Mirage-2000...each upgrade of Mirage-2000 costs $45 million plus....

The outflow of such amount of money will cripple the MoD budget for a decade or more...

Anonymous said...

@ anon 7.44 am:u sound very logical.other aspects of the deal may be some under cover deals like some key technology transfer which inflates the deal.
in my view
1-india should operate less variety of fighters - mantaince will be easy
2-make the number of rafel atleast 400. bargain hard .bring the total production line to hal/private sectoras offset.this will make the cost lower

Anonymous said...

Please be telling me how IAF justifies paying more for 4 generation Rafale than 5 generation F-35 after estimating life cycle costs ? Is someone making big fat fee in Delhi or do French think we are so desperate and will pay what they ask ?