The French government and Dassault Aviation have contradicted former President Francois Hollande’s claim with regard to selecting the industrial partner from India in the multi-million dollar Rafale jets deal.
Hours after Hollande claimed that the Indian government suggested a particular private firm for Rafale offset contract, the French government issued a statement late Friday.
In response to the claim, the Friday night statement of French government said: “The French government is in no manner involved in the choice of Indian industrial partners who have been, are being or will be selected by French companies.
“In accordance with India’s acquisition procedure, French companies have the full freedom to choose their Indian partner companies that they consider to be the most relevant, then present for the Indian government’s approval the offset projects that they wish to execute in India with these local partners so as to fulfil their obligations in this regard.”
Dassault Aviation, the makers of the Rafale jets, also issued a statement on Friday night. “This offsets contract is delivered in compliance with the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) 2016 regulations. In this framework, and in accordance with the policy of ‘Make in India’, Dassault Aviation has decided to make a partnership with India’s Reliance Group. This is Dassault Aviation’s choice,” said the company.
The Paris-based company said the partnership between the two giants led to the creation of the “Dassault Reliance Aerospace Ltd (DRAL) joint-venture in February 2017.
“Dassault aviation is very proud that the Indian authorities have selected the Rafale fighter,” it added.
The report in Mediapart, a French language publication, quoted Hollande as saying, “It was the Indian government that proposed this service group, and Dassault which negotiated with Ambani. We had no choice, we took the interlocutor who was given to us.”
“We did not have a say in this,” Hollande was quoted by the website as saying. “The Indian government proposed this service group and Dassault negotiated with Ambani.”
Asked who selected Reliance as a partner and why, Hollande replied, “We had no say in this regard.”
Dassault Aviation, the makers of Rafale, had chosen Reliance Defence as its partner to fulfill offset obligations of the deal. The government has been maintaining it did not have any role in selection of the offset partner by Dassault.
The Congress has been accusing massive irregularities in the deal, alleging that the government was procuring each aircraft at a cost of over Rs 1,670 crore as against Rs 526 crore finalised by the UPA government when it was negotiating procurement of 126 Rafale jets.
The Congress has also alleged that the government was benefitting Reliance Defence through the deal as the company has set up a joint venture with Dassault Aviation to execute the offset obligation for the deal.
Congress chief Rahul Gandhi attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi after the reports of French media and said that the PM Modi personally negotiated and changed the Rafale deal behind closed doors.
“The PM personally negotiated & changed the #Rafale deal behind closed doors. Thanks to François Hollande, we now know he personally delivered a deal worth billions of dollars to a bankrupt Anil Ambani.
The PM has betrayed India. He has dishonoured the blood of our soldiers,” Gandhi tweeted.
The PM personally negotiated & changed the #Rafale deal behind closed doors. Thanks to François Hollande, we now know he personally delivered a deal worth billions of dollars to a bankrupt Anil Ambani.
The PM has betrayed India. He has dishonoured the blood of our soldiers.
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) September 21, 2018
The Congress has also been demanding answers from the government on why state-run aerospace major HAL was not involved in the deal as finalised during the UPA.
Under India’s offset policy, foreign defence entities are mandated to spend at least 30 per cent of the total contract value in India through procurement of components or setting up of research and development facilities.
Ten days after India sealed the government-to-government agreement on the Rafale deal, Reliance Defence and Dassault had announced a joint venture (JV) in the aerospace sector and a year later, the foundation stone of a manufacturing facility was laid in Mihan, Nagpur.
(With inputs from agencies)