New Delhi: The Rafael controversy took another turn on Wednesday when a French journal claimed that it had a document which shows that Dassault Aviation considered its alliance with Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence as “imperative and mandatory” to bag the contract.
According to a report, the Mediapart article says the document shows a top Dassault official, Loik Segalen had explained to its staff on May 11, 2017, and that the joint venture was a “trade-off” for 36 jet deals.
However, Dassault Aviation has denied the report and said it “has freely chosen to make a partnership with India’s Reliance Group.”
In a press release, Dassault said, “This joint-venture, Dassault Reliance Aerospace Ltd (DRAL), was created February 10, 2017. Other partnerships have been signed with other companies such as BTSL, DEFSYS, Kinetic, Mahindra, Maini, SAMTEL,... Other negotiations are ongoing with a hundred-odd other potential partners.”
Last month, in an interview with Mediapart, former French President Francois Hollande had claimed that the Indian government had proposed reliance defence as the partner in Rafale deal and France did not have a choice. Later, Dassault clarified that the decision to partner with Reliance Defence was their own.
Elections are due to take place in five states in November and December leading up to the 2019 general election. Allegations and counter-allegations began after Hollande’s statement. The opposition accused the government of ignoring state-run defence company Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to benefit Anil Ambani. Both the government and the industrialist have rubbished the charges.
The new allegations come on a day when Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is headed to France where she will visit a Dassault factory where the 36 Rafale aircraft are being manufactured for India. Sitharaman who is on a three-day visit will also meet her French counterpart, Florence Parly.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced the revised deal to buy 36 Rafale jets after talks with President Hollande on April 10, 2015 in Paris.
Anil Ambani was part of a business delegation that travelled with Modi on that visit.