A political fight has broken out in India after former French President Francois Hollande told a French website that the Indian government suggested Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence for the Rafale jet deal. Shortly after Hollande’s remarks, the French government and Dassault Aviation, the French aircraft manufacturer have since issued statements respectively.
Here’s everything you need to know about the controversy:
1) Hollande was quoted in an article by a French website ‘Mediapart’ claiming that the Indian government had asked the French government to nominate Reliance Defence as its India partner in the deal. “We did not have a say in this,” Hollande was quoted as saying. “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.”
2) When Francois Hollande was the President of France, the deal to purchase 36 Rafale fighter jets from France was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2015. The deal was 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.
3) As per the 2015 deal signed by Indian PM Narendra Modi and then French President Francoise Hollande, the number of Rafale aircraft were reduced from 126 to 26. Furthermore, the manufacture of the aircraft would be completed in France and the 'offsets clause' of the deal states that France would invest 50% of the cost of the total order in Indian companies. Out of around 75 listed firms, the makers of Rafale, Dassault Aviation, was allowed to choose any company it wants, the deal stated.
4) The opposition in India has been alleging that Anil Ambani firm Reliance Defence was favoured in the offsets contract at the cost of state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) despite the private firm having no prior experience in aerospace manufacturing.
5) In response to Hollande's claim, the French government issued a statement, which said: “The French government is in no manner involved in the choice of Indian industrial partners who have been, are being or will be selected by French companies.”
6) The statement added: "In accordance with India's acquisition procedure, French companies have the full freedom to choose their Indian partner companies that they consider to be the most relevant, then present for the Indian government's approval the offset projects that they wish to execute in India with these local partners so as to fulfil their obligations in this regard."
7) Dassault Aviation, the makers of the Rafale jets, also issued a statement on Friday night, saying: "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."
8) Hollande’s statement has triggered an attack from the Indian National Congress against the Modi government. Party chief Rahul Gandhi took to Twitter to state that the Rafale deal was doctored "behind closed doors" by PM Modi. "The Prime Minister personally negotiated and changed the Rafale deal behind closed doors. Thanks to François Hollande, we now know he personally delivered a deal worth billions of dollars to a bankrupt," he tweeted.
9) The Defence Ministry, however, continues to maintain that neither the government of India nor the French government had any say in the commercial decision. The Centre has repeatedly stated it was Dassault that chose its India partner for offsets and that the government had no say in the deal.
10) Following Hollande’s statement, the Defence Ministry also tweeted to say, “The report referring to fmr French president Mr. Hollande's statement that GOI insisted upon a particular firm as offset partner for the Dassault Aviation in Rafale is being verified. It is reiterated that neither GoI nor French Govt had any say in the commercial decision.”
With IANS inputs