Reliance pact was ‘imperative’ and ‘mandatory’ for Dassault: Report
A French media report on Wednesday suggested that a senior official in Dassault Aviation saw the partnership with Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group as “imperative and mandatory” to getting the “export contract” with India for the Rafale aircraft.
Mediapart quoted an internal Dassault Aviation document detailing a presentation that deputy chief executive officer Loïk Segalen gave to worker representatives explaining the rationale for setting up a joint venture in Nagpur with Reliance Aerospace.
During the presentation, the report said, Segalen described the joint venture as a “contrepartie” to getting the “export contract India”.
Contrepartie roughly translates to “compensation” or to refer to something given as compensation. This could be a reference to the offsets.
Elections are due to take place in five states in November and December leading up to the 2019 general election. The attorney general also argued against the court seeking details of the of the decision-making process and said the “matter pertains to national security and even he would not be supplied with any information pertaining to the deal”.
The petitions have been filed by lawyers Vineet Dhanda and ML Sharma. Aam Aadmi Party’s Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh has also moved the top court against the Rafale deal; Sanjay Singh has sought a court order for the formation of a special team to probe the matter under the Supreme Court’s oversight.
The AAP leader said SIT should probe “as to how the figure of 36 fighter jets was arrived at without the formalities associated/ with such a highly sensitive defence procurement”..
The NDA’s decision to enter an $8.7 billion government-to-government deal with France to buy the 36 Rafale warplanes made by Dassault was announced in April 2015, with an agreement signed a little over a year later. This replaced the previous United Progressive Alliance regime’s decision to buy 126 Rafale aircraft, 108 of which were to be made in India by the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.
The deal has become controversial with the opposition, led by the Congress, claiming that the price at which India is buying Rafale aircraft now is ₹1,670 crore for each, three times the ₹526 crore, the initial bid by the company when the UPA was trying to buy the aircraft. It has also claimed the previous deal included a technology transfer agreement with HAL.
The NDA has not disclosed details of the price, but the UPA deal, struck in 2012, was not a viable one, former defence minister Manohar Parrikar has previously said, implying that it would have never been closed and that, therefore, any comparison is moot. Indeed, the UPA was not able to close the deal till 2014, largely over discussions related to pricing of items not included in the initial bid.
The NDA has said that the current deal also includes customized weaponry.
The deal has also become controversial on account of the fact that one of the offset deals signed by Dassault is with the Reliance Group of Anil Ambani. The Congress claims the earlier deal was scrapped and a new one signed just to provide Ambani this opportunity for an offset deal. Former French President Francois Hollande has said that Reliance was made Dassault’s offset partner at India’s insistence.
The French and the Indian governments, and Dassault and Reliance have repeatedly denied this. Sniffing an electoral opportunity in the Rafale deal, the Congress has been relentlessly keeping up the heat. Gandhi has claimed that it is “the corruption of the century”.
The opposition party also said that it would make Rafale one of the main issues in its poll campaign and claims it resonates strongly with the electorate. The NDA government has said that it cannot disclose the details of the price on two counts: a confidentiality agreement with France, and the strategic reason of not showing its hand to India’s enemies