French media outlet Mediapart on Wednesday claimed it had accessed an internal document of Dassault Aviation which showed that the joint venture with the Anil Ambani-led Reliance Defence was an “obligatory trade-off” and “mandatory” for the Rs 59,000-crore Rafale deal to materialise.
The sensational disclosure was made on the eve of Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s flight to Paris where she will have bilateral talks with her French counterpart and discussions with Dassault Aviation executives on the progress in the Indian contract.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi described Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s trip to France as part of a “huge cover-up” by the government.
While the Mediapart report is in French, rudimentary initial translation suggests that Dassault considered the alliance with Reliance Defence as an “obligatory trade-off”, “imperative” and “mandatory” to enter the lucrative Indian defence market.
“Sensational! The No. 2 person in Dassault in an internal document said the Rs 21,000-crore offset contract to Ambani’s company was a quid pro quo for obtaining the contract. This confirms (Francois) Hollande’s statement that Modi forced the French to give the offset contract to Ambani for getting the contract,” tweeted Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhusan, a vocal critic of the Rafale deal.
Ever since the controversy broke out, the Central government steadfastly maintained that it played no role in the selection of Reliance Defence as an offset partner for Dassault as it was a purely commercial decision between two business houses.
Firing a fresh salvo at Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the Rafale deal, Congress president Rahul Gandhi alleged on Thursday that he was a “corrupt man” who helped Anil Ambani pocket Rs 30,000 crore in the purchase of the fighter aircraft.
Gandhi demanded an investigation against the Prime Minister. His attack at the government came at a press conference following a report in the French media that Dassault Aviation, the manufacturer of Rafale, had to choose Ambani’s firm Reliance Defence as its offsets partner in India as a trade-off for getting the deal.
The government has been insisting that it had no role in the Dassault’s choice of Reliance Defence. Also Dassault Aviation said in a statement that it has “freely chosen to make a partnership with India’s Reliance Group”
It is important to note The Supreme Court three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi on Wednesday sought from the centre the details of steps involved in the decision-making process leading to the Rafale fighter jet deal between India and France.