In a debate moderated by TIMES NOW's Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami, panelists -- Piyush Goyal, MP, RS, BJP & Natl Treasurer; Kamal Faruqui, Natl Secy, SP; Vinod Mehta, Editorial Chairman, Outlook; Aryama Sundaram, Sr Advocate, SC; and Jitendra Bhargava, fmr Executive Dir, Air India -- discuss the issue of controversial Indo-UAE civil aviation deal.
Amid a raging controversy over the Rs 2,058 cr deal between Jet Airways and Etihad, Govt today (July 2) said the equity stake sale matter is still under examination and asserted that there were no differences between Ministries over the air services agreement between India and Abu Dhabi. The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) came out with a statement rebutting reports about objections to the deal raised by Jaswant Singh (BJP), Gurudas Dasgupta (CPI), Dinesh Trivedi (TMC) and Subramanian Swamy (JP Chief), each of whom had shot off separate letters to PM Manmohan Singh. Reports of rift within the Govt on the India-UAE (Abu Dhabi) Bilateral Air Services Agreement and the Jet-Etihad equity proposal are "factually incorrect and baseless", the PMO said. "The PM is neither washing his hands off the Bilateral Air Services Agreement nor is the PMO trying to do a U-turn on the issue now." On the stake sale issue, the PMO said this was a "distinctly different" matter as it was an agreement between 2 private parties. PMO also said that the issues raised have been referred to the Civil Aviation Ministry, Dept of Industrial Policy & Promotion, Dept of Economic Affairs and the Corporate Affairs Ministry "for examination and appropriate action. The issues relating to security concerns were also referred to the Cabinet Secy for examination to suggest whether there was a need to look into any issues afresh. Strongly defending the deal, Civil Aviation Min Ajit Singh said those opposing it were "long on politics and short on facts ... It is such an important deal..., the first big deal in Civil Aviation Ministry. Etihad had on April 24 announced its decision to purchase 24% stake in Jet for Rs 2,058 cr. On June 13, the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) deferred a decision on the deal, saying it required more clarity on control and ownership structure of Jet Airways. Jet chairman Naresh Goyal owns a 51% stake in the airline. Even as govt defended the deal, CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta wrote a second letter on the issue to the PM, saying granting of rights to UAE to operate flights to cater to 37,000 seats "are in fact the price paid by India, for benefitting Jet Airways, as without these licences Etihad was not interested in buying portion of Jet Airways." In his earlier letter, he had claimed that the "cash rich Gulf airline may prevail upon Jet Airways to increase the flight undercutting the tariff and taking over large number of passengers who otherwise would have taken Air India."