French defence firm Dassault Aviation on Wednesday denied a media report that claimed the firm entered into an agreement with Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence as it was presented as a “trade off” to obtain the contract of Rafale sales.
According to a document accessed by French investigative website Mediapart, Dassault considered this alliance as a “counterpart”, “imperative and mandatory” to get into the Indian market.
Dassault said in compliance with the Indian regulations, it has committed to offsets in India worth 50% of the value of the purchase. “Dassault Aviation has freely chosen to make a partnership with India’s Reliance Group,” the firm said in a statement. “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.”
On May 11, 2017, Dassault Aviation Chief Operating Officer Loïk Segalen informed the Central Works Council of the creation of the DRAL joint-venture as per the French regulations, it added.
On September 21, former French President Francois Hollande told Mediapart that India had given Dassault, which manufactures the jets, no choice but to work with Reliance Defence. Hollande claimed the Indian government had proposed Reliance’s name for the pact, which was agreed upon when he was president.
India’s Ministry of Defence denied the former French president’s claim while France said it is “in no manner” involved in choosing French companies’ industrial partners for projects in India. In a separate statement, Dassault Aviation said it had chosen Reliance Defence for the project.
India signed an inter-governmental agreement with France in 2016 to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets at a cost of Rs 58,000 crore. The Congress and several other leaders have accused the Narendra Modi government of getting an overpriced deal. Reliance Defence joined the offset programme in late 2016 through Dassault Reliance Aerospace Ltd.