France & Dassault tiptoe on Hollande, Modi silent

India's Modi faces calls for resignation over French jet deal

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.

India's prime minister was under fire over allegations of corruption in a military jet deal with France after comments by former French President François Hollande. (The controversial Rafale deal was finalised in 2015 and signed in 2016).

Hurt by Congress President Rahul Gandhi's stinging attack, the BJP on Saturday said that no national president of any party had used "such words" for a PM before. "We did not have a choice, we took the interlocutor we were given", said Hollande. It clearly states - Dassault as a French company is free to chose its Indian partner as per the DPP and they never influenced the decision of Dassault.

The statement attributed to Hollande, who was speaking in French, was translated for The Telegraph by Basabi Pal, head of the French department at Chandernagore Government College in Hooghly, and Sudeshna Banerjee, a journalist with this newspaper. He says that in the meeting with the prime minister he was told that this was his only option.

Former French President Francois Hollande has reportedly claimed that the Indian government had proposed the name of Anil Ambani's Reliance Defence for the Rafale deal with the French government. "Everything will be clear", Gandhi said.

"I am totally mystified by Hollande's action", a former Indian ambassador to France said. The "Defence Offset Guidelines" of DPP 2016, clause 4.1 in Indian Offset Partners (IOP) reads: "Indian enterprises and institutions and establishments engaged in the manufacture of eligible products and/or provision of eligible services, including DRDO, are referred to as the Indian Offset partner (IOP)". We can't expect anything else from Rahul Gandhi.

Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP's) defenders of the Rafale deal, notably Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, have repeatedly rejected Opposition charges of "crony capitalism" to favour Ambani.

Soon after the deal was made, the Congress accused the ruling government of corruption and cronyism in the multi-billion dollar deal. Former French President's statement directly contradicts what Modi govt had been saying so far.

Dassault Aviation, the makers of Rafale, had chosen Reliance Defence as its partner to fulfill offset obligations of the deal.

Hollande reiterated to AFP later in the day that his government did not choose Reliance. Initially, 126 aircraft were to brought, 18 off-the-shelf in a "flyaway" condition and the rest were to be built by the French company in India with an Indian partner.

Pressure from the IAF over the urgent need to replace its fast-depleting squadron of fighter aircraft and the possibility of restarting the entire bidding process if the entire contract with Dassault was to be scrapped led the Modi government to by only 36 Rafale aircraft from the French.

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