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The Indian government said it had “no role” to play in the selection of Reliance Defence as the partner for the Rafale deal. The government’s assertion comes a day after former French President Francois Hollande was quoted in a French news story as saying that Reliance was proposed as partner by the Indian government. Hollande was President of France when the deal for 36 Rafale fighter aircraft was signed with India, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
In a statement today India’s defence ministry stated that “unnecessary controversies” are being created following Hollande’s comments. “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.
"The Government has stated earlier and again reiterates that it had no role in the selection of Reliance Defence as the Offset partner." - Ministry of Defence, India
The Indian defence ministry pointed that the joint venture between Anil Ambani-promoted Reliance Defence and France’s Dassault, the manufacturer of the aircraft, came into being in Feb. 2017. “This is a purely commercial arrangement between two private companies.”
It added that under the Defence Offset Policy guidelines, the foreign original equipment manufacturer, in this case Dassault, is “free to select any Indian company as its offset partner”.
The Rs 58,000 crore Rafale deal has been swamped by controversy for a while now on questions of higher costs, alleged process violations and the involvement of Ambani.
Earlier today, Congress party president Rahul Gandhi, in a media conference, alleged “clear-cut corruption” on part of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government. He demanded a joint parliamentary committee probe into the deal.
The BJP condemned his remarks as “shameful and irresponsible” and ruled out a probe saying a joint parliamentary committee cannot be set up to satisfy an “ill-informed leader”.
Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad accused Gandhi of “playing into the hands of Pakistan and China” by seeking the details of the Rafale fighter jets. He claimed that Reliance and Dassault had entered into agreement as early as 2012 when the Congress-led UPA was in power.
(With inputs from PTI)
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