After the French government issued a statement in the wake of France's ex-President Francois Hollande's explosive comment on the Rafale deal, the Congress alleged today that it "conceals more than it reveals." The BJP launched a counterattack, saying the French statement was "nailing the lie on its head".
On Friday, French journal Mediapart quoted Francois Hollande as saying: "We did not have a say in this... the Indian government proposed this service group and Dassault negotiated with (Anil) Ambani group. We did not have a choice; we took the partner who was given to us."
The Anil Ambani-led Reliance Defence is manufacturing aerospace components as part of the offset clause of the deal. The clause requires Rafale manufacturer Dassault to ensure business worth around Rs 30,000 crores for the Indian defence system. Reliance Defence is not manufacturing components for the jets to be delivered to India. The company is building assemblies for Dassault business jets.
After Mr Hollande's comment escalated the political controversy on the Rafale deal in India, the French government came out with a clarification that the French companies had the freedom to choose Indian partner companies in the deal.
"In accordance with India's acquisition procedure, French companies have the full freedom to choose the Indian partner companies that they consider to be the most relevant, then present for the Indian government's approval the offsets projects that they wish to execute in India with these local partners so as to fulfil their obligations in this regard," the statement read.
Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari wrote on his Twitter account that speculation was rife that the French Parliament may conduct a hearing over the Rafale deal.
"The French statement conceals more than it reveals. The French government knows verbal interactions between former President Francois Hollande and Indian interlocutors are minuted and would emerge," he wrote.
"Speculation of French Parliamentary hearing into Rafale and access to administration documents under France's Freedom of Information Law 1978 is rife," he said.
"What French government/corporate entity has just ended up doing is making Rafale procurement a veritable domestic issue in French politics also. By saying Hollande is being economical with truth they have set the stage for facts/documents to become a torrent," he added.
Union Minister Ananth Kumar came up with a strong comeback. "Nailing the lie on its head -- misinformation about Rafael deal, Dassault being called out by the French government (sic)," he wrote on Twitter.
Dassault also issued a statement on the issue. "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..."
Congress President Rahul Gandhi launched a blistering attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi after Mr Hollande's comment, saying the prime minister betrayed the county. "The PM personally negotiated & changed the Rafale deal behind closed doors(sic). Thanks to Francois 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," he reacted on Twitter.
The deal to purchase 36 Rafale fighter jets from France was announced by PM Modi in 2015, and he signed the deal 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 state-owned HAL under licence.
With inputs from IANS
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