The French journalist who first tweeted about Francois Hollande’s claim that France had no choice but to pick Reliance as an offset partner in the Rafale deal said on Monday that the French government is not contradicting the former French President’s statement.
On Monday, Julien Bouissou, a journalist with France’s Le Monde, took to Twitter to state that a statement reportedly issued by French Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, does not counter Hollande’s claim.
“Hello Twitter in India, a little update from France: 1) The French MOS for Foreign affairs Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne is not happy with the interview given by François Hollande but doesn’t contradict him neither,” wrote Bouissou.
In another tweet, Bouissou tagged an Indian publication while stating that the “the Rafale controversy is not heating up in France” as was being suggested by the publication.
Hello Twitter in India, a little update from France :
1) The French MOS for Foreign affairs Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne is not happy with the interview given by François Hollande but doesn’t contradict him neither.
— julien bouissou (@jubouissou) September 24, 2018
His tweets followed the French government’s statement on Sunday in which it expressed fears of damage to its relations with India after the controversy stirred by Hollande.
On 21 September, Hollande was quoted by French website Mediapart that the Indian government had asked the French government to nominate Reliance Defence as its India partner in the Rafale jet offset deal.
“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.”
Commenting on Hollande, junior foreign minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne said on Sunday, “I find these remarks made overseas, which concern important international relations between France and India, do not help anyone and above all do not help France.”
“Because one is no longer in office, causing damage to a strategic partnership between India and France by making remarks that clearly cause controversy in India is really not appropriate,” he said in an interview on Radio J.
France had issued a statement late on Friday as well, hours after Hollande’s explosive claim.
“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,” the statement read.
Hollande’s claim has triggered a major political storm in India with the Opposition assailing the BJP-led NDA government over the deal.
Addressing a press conference on Saturday, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi said Hollande was calling the Prime Minister of India a “thief” and that it was time for PM Modi to break his silence.
“Former French president calls our PM a thief… What is staggering is that the Prime Minister is still silent on it. Not a single word from him,” said Gandhi.
“The former French president has clearly and categorically said that the prime minister himself suggested the name of Anil Ambani’s company. He says that in the meeting with the prime minister he was told that this was his only option. It is now for the prime minister to clear his name… we are absolutely convinced that the prime minister is corrupt. I’m trying to help him protect his office. He must clarify,” the Congress president added.
Meanwhile, the French journalist who had interviewed Hollande has reiterated that the former French President told him he had no choice in the selection of Reliance Defence.
Talking to Times Now, Antton Rouget said Hollande told him it was the Indian government that had proposed the name of Reliance.
“I had asked Hollande whether he named Reliance Defence and Anil Ambani after which he clearly said that Indian government proposed the name of both and that they fixed the interlocutor,” he said.