- Francois Hollande has said India picked Reliance Defence for Rafale deal
- Indian, French government have denied the claim
- Mr Hollande's office says India did not give a choice for partners
Following are the latest developments in this big story:
The French government had last night said they were in no manner involved in the choice of the Indian industrial partners for the deal, rather their role was just to ensure the delivery and quality of the aircraft.
Dassault Aviation too had said last night that it was their choice to partner with the Reliance Group. "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..." the Dassault statement said.
Earlier on Friday, French journal Mediapart had 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."
Denying the charge, a defence ministry spokesperson had tweeted that the report "is being verified" and that "neither GoI (government of India) nor the French Government had any say in the commercial decision."
The startling claim by the former French president has escalated the political row in India over the Rafale deal. Congress president Rahul Gandhi this morning attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and said he had "betrayed India's soul".
Calling the Rafale deal a Rs 1.3 lakh crore surgical strike on the Indian defence forces, Mr Gandhi said PM Modi "dishonoured the blood of our martyred soldiers."
Challenging the French government, the Congress said their statement "conceals more than it reveals". Party spokesperson Manish Tiwari tweeted that speculation was rife that the French Parliament may conduct a hearing over the Rafale deal.
The BJP was quick to counter the attack. Union Minister Ananth Kumar tweeted, "Nailing the lie on its head -- misinformation about Rafale deal, Dassault being called out by the French government."
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.
The Anil Ambani-led group is manufacturing aerospace components as part of the offset component of the Rafale deal. The clause requires Rafale manufacturer Dassault to ensure that business worth around Rs. 30,000 crores is generated for the Indian defence system. Reliance Defence is not making components for the Rafales ordered by India but is building assemblies for Dassault business jets.