Rafale deal: India is looking to buy 36 Rafale multirole jets from France's Dassault Aviation
New Delhi: Francois Hollande, the former French president who dropped a bombshell yesterday by telling a French journal that the Indian government proposed Anil Ambani's Reliance Defence as the India partner for the 36 Rafale jet deal, has said he stands by his statement, his office told NDTV today. His reiterated his stand even as the French government and Dassault Aviation, the maker of the Rafale jet, last night contradicted his claim to the French journal, Mediapart. Meanwhile, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said all allegations in the Rafale deal are baseless.
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".
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.