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France, India deny role in choice of Rafale partners

By The Assam Tribune

NEW DELHI, Sept 22 - The French government has said it was in no manner involved in the choice of Indian industrial partners for the multi-billion dollar Rafale fighter jet deal as former French President Francois Hollande�s reported comments that New Delhi proposed Reliance Defence as the Indian partner for the contract escalated the political row over it.

While the French government said French companies have the full freedom to select Indian firms for the deal, Dassault Aviation, the makers of Rafale, said it had made the decision to partner with Reliance Defence Ltd.

Both the French government and French aerospace company Dassault issued separate statements following a French media report which quoted Hollande as saying that the Indian government proposed Reliance Defence as the partner for French aerospace giant in the Rs 58,000-crore Rafale deal and France did not have a choice.

The sensational comments quoted to Hollande by French publication Mediapart gave a new twist to the controversy as the Indian government has been maintaining it was not officially aware of whom the Dassault Aviation has selected as its Indian partner to fulfil offset obligations of the deal.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced the procurement of a batch of 36 Rafale jets after holding talks with then French President Hollande on April 10, 2015 in Paris.

�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,� the French government said in its statement.

The report in Mediapart quoted Hollande as saying, �It was the Indian government that proposed this service group, and Dassault, which negotiated with Ambani. We had no choice, we took the interlocutor who was given to us.�

In its statement, Dassault Aviation said it has decided to make a partnership with the Reliance Defence in accordance with the policy of �Make in India�.

�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 French company said.

Meanwhile, the Government of India today claimed that it too did not have any role in the selection of Reliance Defence as partner by Dassault Aviation for the Rafale deal.

The defence ministry said �unnecessary controversies� are being sought to be created following media reports regarding a statement purportedly made by Hollande concerning the selection of Reliance Defence as the offset partner by Dassault.

�The government has stated earlier and again reiterates that it had no role in the selection of Reliance Defence as the offset partner,� the ministry said.

�The reported statement perhaps needs to be seen in its full context � where the French media has raised issues of conflict of interest involving persons close to the former President. His subsequent statements are also relevant in this regard,� the ministry said, seen as a reference to a recent media report linking the Rafale deal with a film by Hollande�s partner Julie Gayet.

�Incidentally, media reports of February, 2012 suggest that Dassault Aviation, within two weeks of being declared the lowest bidder for procurement of 126 aircraft by the previous government, had entered into a pact for partnership with Reliance Industries in defence sector,� the defence ministry said. � PTI

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