Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday said the government was not involved in selecting businessman Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence as a partner to French firm Dassault Aviation in the Rafale jet deal. Sitharaman made the comments in France where she is on a three-day visit.
Sitharaman’s denial came after Mediapart, a French investigative website, on Wednesday claimed to have accessed a document that showed that the offset contract with Reliance Defence was a “trade off” to obtain an agreement for Rafale sales in India. Subsequently, Congress President Rahul Gandhi labelled Prime Minister Narendra Modi a corrupt man. Gandhi also questioned why Sitharaman had to “rush” to France.
“It is a government-to-government agreement between the French and Indian governments and there is no name [of any company] mentioned,” Sitharaman told NDTV in Paris. “This offset obligation may be mandatory, but the names of the companies are not mandatory for me.”
Justifying her planned visit to the offices of Dassault Aviation in Paris, Sitharaman said: “As for the visit to Dassault, it is an invitation and also I’m a buyer, so I would definitely go and see.”
“It is more for the companies that have chosen A, B or C as their partners to answer questions if there are any,” said the defence minister when asked if India would go ahead with the deal in the face of protests and complaints filed by anti-corruption groups, AFP reported.