NEW DELHI: Citing an internal report of Dassault Aviation, French publication ‘Mediapart’, in yet another investigative report, claimed the makers of Rafale jets had considered picking Reliance Defence as the offset partner in India “imperative and mandatory” to bag the contract. Mediapart in its report said a document obtained by it shows that Dassault considered this (Dassault-Reliance) alliance as a ‘counterpart’, ‘imperative and mandatory’, to get the Rafale deal.
“C’était une vraie fausse inauguration. Une « première pierre » symbolique posée sur du gazon prédécoupé, sous un chapiteau de circonstance, à Nagpur (centre de l’Inde), mais qui annonçait le début de la construction de la « future usine » Dassault-Reliance. Selon un document interne à Dassault obtenu par Mediapart, un haut cadre du groupe d’aviation avait expliqué aux représentants du personnel que la joint-venture était une « contrepartie », « impérative et obligatoire » pour décrocher le marché du Rafale.” (Translation below)
“It was a false inauguration. A symbolic “first stone” was placed on pre-cut turf, under a capital of circumstance, in Nagpur (central India), but it announced the beginning of the construction of the “future factory” Dassault-Reliance. According to an internal Dassault document obtained by Mediapart, a senior member of the aviation group had explained to the staff representatives that the joint venture was a “counterpart”, “imperative and mandatory” to get the Rafale market,” Mediapart reported.
This comes days after the same publication published former French President Francois Hollande’s remarks that the Indian government proposed the name of Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence as the offset partner in India, which escalate the political slugfest in Indian over the controversial multi-billion dollar deal.
Hollande had told the media house that Dassault Aviation was given no choice but to partner with Reliance Defence for the offset clause in the Rafale fighter jet deal.
“We did not have a say in that. The Indian government proposed this service group, and Dassault negotiated with Ambani. We did not have a choice, we took the interlocutor who was given to us. That’s why, on the other hand, this group did not have to give me any thanks for anything. I could not even imagine that there was any connection to a film by Julie Gayet,” Hollande said.
Hollande’s reported statement contradicted Indian government’s claim that the agreement between Dassault and Reliance was a commercial pact between two private parties and the government had nothing to do with it.
The opposition has been accusing the government of chosing Reliance Defence over state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd to benefit the private firm though it did not have any experience in the aerospace sector.
The deal to purchase 36 Rafale fighter jets from France was announced by Modi in 2015 and signed in 2016. The UPA government was earlier negotiating a deal to procure 126 Rafale jets, with 18 to come in flyaway condition and 108 to be manufactured by HAL under licence.
The Modi government has repeatedly said it was Dassault that chose its India partner for offsets and that the government had no say in the deal.