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Jet-Etihad Stake Sale Under Examination: PMO

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Amid controversy over the Jet Airways-Etihad deal, the Indian Prime Minister's Office said the stake sale matter was still under examination and the issues raised have been referred to various concerned ministries.

It also asserted there were no differences within the government over the air services agreement between India and Abu Dhabi.

The PMO's clarification came amid objections to the deal, first raised by a Parliamentary Standing Committee headed by CPI(M) MP Sitaram Yechury, and then by senior MPs, Jaswant Singh and Dinesh Trivedi, and Janata Party chief Subramanian Swamy, who shot off letters to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Responding to reports over the India-UAE (Abu Dhabi) Bilateral Air Services Agreement and the Jet Airways-Etihad equity proposal, the PMO said these reports are "factually incorrect and baseless."

Referring to the bilateral agreement, it said "there is absolutely no disagreement within the government or between the Ministers and the Prime Minister on the matter. The Prime Minister is neither washing his hands off the Bilateral Air Services Agreement nor is the Prime Minister's Office trying to do a U-turn on the issue now."

About the stake sale issue between Jet Airways and Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways, the PMO said this was a "distinctly different" matter as it was an agreement between two private parties.

"This is a matter between private parties which needs to be approved by the concerned agencies as per the policies and laws in place. This is not an agreement between governments and there is no question either backtracking from or disowning this proposal as this is not an agreement with the government," it said in a statement.

"As for the equity stake matter, that is a matter still under examination," it said.

The issues raised over the deal have been referred to the Civil Aviation Ministry, Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion, Department of Economic Affairs and the Corporate Affairs Ministry "for examination and appropriate action as they were concerned with various aspects of the complaints."

The issues relating to security concerns were referred to the Cabinet Secretary for examination to suggest whether there was a need to look into any issues afresh, the PMO statement said.

The statement came as Cabinet Secretary A K Seth held a meeting with the Secretaries of the concerned Ministries and Departments to discuss the issue.

It also said the Prime Minister had directed that the matter be brought to the Union Cabinet "much before any of the letters complaining about the seat entitlement enhancement or the Jet-Etihad equity stake were even received."

Seeking to clear the air over the issue, the PMO detailed the sequence of events and said it wanted a Note prepared for Cabinet approval to be modified.

"Nowhere was there a suggestion to change the decision sought in the note, which is the ex-post facto approval of the MOU," it said.

When the Cabinet Note was received by PMO, it was felt that it should be "reformulated to reflect the sequence of events and the discussions more accurately as its current formulation did not explain the detailed examination of the matter that had taken place on April 22."

"An accurate description of issues would make it easier for readers of the Cabinet Note to understand the multiplicity of issues that have a bearing on the matter and the reasoning behind the mandate," it said.

It was in this context that PMO sent a Note to the Ministry of Civil Aviation on June 13 to redraft it, the statement said.

As far as the Bilateral Air Services Agreement was concerned, the Cabinet Note was asked to be kept in abeyance till responses on the complaint letters were received, it said.


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