Francois Hollande’s claim could mean trouble for Modi govt which has so far maintained it had no role to play in selection of Reliance Defence.
New Delhi: Francois Hollande, the former President of France, has told a news portal that the choice of Reliance as the offset partner in the Rafale deal was foisted on Dassault Aviation.
Hollande’s assertion that the French government and Dassault had no choice but to accept Anil Ambani as the offset partner, points fingers at the Narendra Modi government.
The official Twitter handle of India’s defence spokesperson has denied Hollande’s allegations.
The report referring to fmr French president Mr. Hollande's statement that GOI insisted upon a particular firm as offset partner for the Dassault Aviation in Rafale is being verified.
It is reiterated that neither GoI nor French Govt had any say in the commercial decision.
— ADG (M&C) DPR (@SpokespersonMoD) September 21, 2018
In an interview to The Indian Express on 13 September, defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman had insisted that the two commercial enterprises — Reliance and Dassault — had taken the decision among themselves.
“I have nothing to do with it. I have not prompted them, not led him, not told them, not instructed them. I have not done any match-making whatsoever. So why am I to be worried by what he would tell me? It may be A, B or C; (or) it may be 70 different partners; it may be buying a product, they may be investing, it may be buying a service. So where am I in it?” she had said.
Reliance had also insisted that it had received the deal from Dassault, not the government. “Reliance Defence or any other Reliance group company has not received any contract from the MoD till date, related to 36 Rafale aircraft. This is absolutely unfounded and incorrect,” said Reliance Defence Ltd chief executive Rajesh Dhingra.
What is an offset partner?
Dassault Aviation makes the Rafale fighter jet in collaboration with a host of other companies that make its components. Offsets are reinvestments of the contracted sum.
In the case of the 36 fighter jet deal, offsets do not mean that part of the Rafale have to be made in India. The offsets could go into other industries.
Reliance has an aerospace facility in Nagpur that produces and rolls out the Falcon, a small passenger jet.
IAF requirement and concerns
The Indian Air Force had, as far back as the year 2000, projected an operational requirement for 126 fighter jets.
Successive chiefs of the IAF have said that a twin-engine fighter jet, such as the Rafale, is an operational necessity if it has to execute the government’s mandate to be prepared for a two-front war — the fronts being Pakistan and China.
It is the China frontier that is the concern. The topography in that frontier demands operations at high altitude where oxygen is rare.