France’s Ambassador to India Alexandre Ziegler on Wednesday said there were no irregularities in the Rafale defence deal, PTI reported. He was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of an event in Bengaluru.
“What scandal?” Ziegler asked. “Just look at the facts, not at the tweets, that is my only recommendation. There is no scandal at all.” He said cooperation and trust between India and France were the hallmark of the relationship.
Asked about state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, or HAL, potentially losing jobs now that Anil Ambani’s company Reliance Defence has been selected for the offset contract under the deal negotiated by the Narendra Modi government, the French envoy asked if HAL had made any comment.
“Did they tell you that they have lost jobs?” asked Ziegler. “I don’t know what potential jobs are.” The ambassador pointed out that the 50% offset cost of the contract, worth about Rs 30,000 crore, is going to be invested in Make in India. “That is huge [amount] and there will be room for hundreds of companies, including HAL, which has had a very fruitful historical cooperation with French companies,” he said.
The ambassador pointed out that almost all major French companies have been investing in India for years. “We have had long cooperation with India,” Ziegler added. “Companies like Airbus, Thales, Dassault have been sourcing in this country. Transfer of technology has been happening for decades.”
The Supreme Court has reserved its verdict on a batch of petitions seeking a Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry into the government’s procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets from Dassault Aviation.
The Congress has accused the government of overpaying for the fighter jets and claimed that the deal has benefitted Ambani. Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s allegations were bolstered by former French President Francois Hollande’s claim in September that the Indian government had proposed the name of Reliance Defence for the offset contract. The government has refused to reveal the per-plane price that it has negotiated in the deal, citing a secrecy agreement with France.
In an affidavit submitted in the top court, the Centre has said the procurement process laid down in Defence Procurement Procedure, 2013, had been followed while finalising the deal. Dassault’s Chief Executive Officer Eric Trappier has repeatedly claimed that his company had chosen Reliance Defence and the Modi government had not the dictated the choice.