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Former French President Hollande contradicted himself; Dassault chose Reliance on its own: Arun Jaitley

A political controversy has erupted over Hollande’s statement that the Indian government wanted the Anil Ambani-led Reliance Defence to be chosen as offset partner of Dassault.

SNS | New Delhi |

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley broke his silence on Sunday over the Rafale controversy and said former France President Francois Hollande contradicted his own statement with regard to the Rafale deal and that neither the Indian nor the French government played any role in the selection of Reliance as offset partner by Dassault, the manufacturer of the Rafale fighter jets.

A political controversy has erupted over Hollande’s statement that the Indian government wanted the Anil Ambani-led Reliance Defence to be chosen as offset partner of Dassault.

Following Hollande’s controversial remarks, the opposition led by Congress president Rahul Gandhi has trained guns at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) regime. Attacking Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Gandhi said on Saturday Hollande had called the Indian PM a “thief”.

While both the Ministry of Defence and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad have maintained that the Indian government had no role in the choice of the offset partner, Jaitley took to social media to reiterate the assertions and pointed to Hollande’s “contrasting remarks”.

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“A controversy is sought to be created on the basis of a statement made by Hollande, that the Reliance Defence ‘partnership’ with Dassault Aviation was entered at the suggestion of the Indian Government.

“The French Government and M/s Dassault Aviation have categorically denied the correctness of the former President’s first statement. The French Government has stated that the decision with regard to the offset contracts of Dassault Aviation are taken by the company and not the Government,” Jaitley posted on Facebook Notes.

“Dassault Aviation itself has suggested that they have entered into multiple contracts with several public sector and private sector companies with regard to the offset contracts and the decision is entirely theirs,” he added in the post that he also shared on Twitter.

“The partners (Dassault and Reliance) selected themselves as former President Hollande now says,” Jaitley said in the post titled ‘A Questionable Statement Which Circumstances & Facts Demolish’.

Contending that it was a “government to government agreement” with no manufacturing is to be done in India, Jaitley said it was “erroneous for anybody to suggest that there is a partnership in the supply of the 36 Rafale aircraft”.

Citing a media report that quoted Hollande as saying that “France did not choose Reliance in any way”, Jaitley said: “His (Hollande) second statement in Montreal, Canada, to AFP makes the veracity of his first statement even more questionable”.

“One Reliance Group was a part of this deal since 2012. It dropped out of defence production. The other Reliance Group was already in defence. They are not partners in the Rafale deal. They have no contract with either the government of India or of France. They were not selected as one of the many offset partners by any government.

“‘The partners (Dassault and Reliance) selected themselves’ as former President Hollande now says. This contradicts his first questionable statement which the French government and Dassault have denied. The facts contradict the same,” he said.

The AFP report quotes Hollande as saying that he was “unaware” about if India had put pressure on Reliance and Dassault to work together and said “only Dassault can comment on this”.

Jaitley reiterated that neither the French nor the Indian government could have any say in selecting the offset partner, and targeted Gandhi over the issue.

(With inputs from agencies)