Dassault Aviation’s Chief Executive Officer Eric Trappier on Tuesday reiterated that it was his company that had chosen businessman Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence to be one of its offset partners in the Rafale fighter jet deal. He said the choice was not dictated by the Indian government as claimed by former French President Francois Hollande in September.
“We chose Ambani by ourselves,” Trappier told news agency ANI in an interview. “We already have 30 partners other than Reliance. The Indian Air Force is supporting the deal because they need the fighter jets for their own defence to be at the top.”
In an interview to The Economic Times last month, Trappier had claimed that Dassault was in talks with the Ambanis much before Narendra Modi became the Indian prime minister. In the late 2000s, Mukesh Abani’s Reliance Industries was in talks with Dassault to enter the defence and aerospace business but it decided not to enter the sector in 2014.
The Opposition, led by the Congress, stepped up its attacks on the Modi government in September after Hollande’s remarks and accused it of signing an overpriced agreement. “We are not putting the money in Reliance,” the businessman told ANI. “The money is going into the joint venture [between Dassault-Reliance]. Engineers and workers from Dassault are taking the lead as far as the industrial part of the deal is concerned.”
Trappier said his company has seven years to fulfil its offset obligations. “During the first three years, we are not obliged to say with who we are working,” he added. “Already settled agreement with 30 companies, which represents 40% of total offset obligation as per contract. Reliance is 10% out of the 40.”
Asked about the price difference between the deal signed with the previous Congress-led government for 126 aircraft – of which 18 were supposed to be manufactured in France – and the agreement with the Modi government, Trappier said the “price of 36 was exactly the same when you compare with 18 flyaway”. “So as far as I was concerned, it should have been double the price,” he claimed. “But because it [the deal] was government to government, there was negotiation, I had to decrease price by 9%.”
Trappier pointed out that the company has worked with Congress governments in the past. “We also have a long experience with the Congress,” he observed. “Our first deal was with India in 1953 was during Nehru, later other prime ministers. We are not working for any party, we are supplying strategic products to the Indian Air Force and the Indian government. That is what is most important.”
The Dassault executive said Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s allegations of irregularities in the deal had saddened him. “I do not lie,” he added. “The truth I declared before and the statements I made are true. I do not have a reputation of lying. In my position as CEO, you do not lie.”
Trappier announced that the first aircraft would be delivered next September as mentioned in the contract.