Wednesday, 28 September, 2022
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France takes responsibility for 36 Rafales, says nothing stronger than Letter of Comfort

The CAG report tabled in Parliament Wednesday had flagged the 'drawbacks' of a Letter of Comfort compared to a sovereign guarantee.

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New Delhi: France Thursday weighed in on the ‘Letter of Comfort’ controversy over the Rafale deal, saying there was “nothing stronger” than the assurance given by Paris as part of the government-to-government agreement signed for 36 fighter jets.

French ambassador to India Alexandre Ziegler said that when a government signs a deal, it takes full responsibility for the price and supply.

“There is nothing stronger in our system that protects the deal,” Ziegler said, speaking to a select group of journalists in the national capital.

He was responding to questions on whether France’s Letter of Comfort was enough as a guarantee against any possible breach by Rafale manufacturer Dassault Aviation in the over €7 billion deal.

“In our system, when a government signs a deal under its name, we are responsible as a government,” he added.

Asked if there was any pressure from the Indian government for selecting Reliance Defence as an offsets partner for Dassault Aviation as part of the deal, he said there was none, reiterating Paris’ long-held argument that offsets partners are decided by private companies and not the government.

Former French President Francois Hollande, whose administration sealed the deal with India, was quoted as saying in a media report last year that it was the Indian government that had proposed Reliance Defence’s selection as an offsets partner. Both Dassault and France had denied the allegation.

Also read: Why CAG and Modi govt’s claims of Rafale deal being cheaper are open to debate

‘Drawbacks of Letter of Comfort’

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), in its report on the Rafale deal that was tabled in Parliament Wednesday, had sought to highlight the drawbacks of India’s decision to settle for a ‘Letter of Comfort’ rather than a sovereign guarantee from the French government.

The Rafale purchase has been at the centre of a raging political row, with the Congress alleging irregularities in the deal signed by the Narendra Modi government in 2016. Its prime accusation is that the Narendra Modi government gave undue benefit to the Anil Amabni-led Reliance Defence, which Dassault chose as one of its mandated offsets partners for the deal.

The government has countered this argument by saying that it has bought 36 Rafale jets under better terms and pricing than what was being negotiated by the Congress-led UPA government.

Also read: Dassault was not the lowest bidder — CAG report contradicts Modi govt on Rafale

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  1. Take the case of demonetization, when ever criticism rose to crescendo, goal posts kept changing.Here also same-supreme court, army generaleneral,air marshals, CAG, Dassault,&now french government trying to rescue Modi with different excuses, justifications and also tantrums of Jaitley, Nirmala, Smriti,R.S.prasad,etc suggest some things are seriously wrong.

  2. lol.. did the French sell you some poop with nuclear glitter on it? Fact is most jets can be equipped with nukes. It mainly depends on the bomb design. So, perhaps the French agreed on passing on some technical stuff on how to minimize nukes as part of the Rafale deal. That would be morally highly dubious regarding international treaties and law, but it still would be the positive scenario in this whole mess – but also an unlikely one. The reality is probably not too far away from what they did in Australia where they sold their overpriced submarines by telling the Aussies that cheap can’t be good (well, plus the usual corruption) when German boots were not even half the price. Bottom line: India should have taken the Gripen, which is a really neat plane with an excellent price value and in the next generation (20years+) go for drones. For Pakistan that should be enough.

  3. I guess this is just to help a friend who’s facing local ire so close to an election. If France “takes responsibility”, then why doesn’t it issue a formal sovereign guarantee? No matter how good the intentions, a letter of comfort I guess is only something like a verbal assurance. If Dassault goes bust as it seems it was on the verge of, at one time, and all its labs and manufacturing lines get locked up, workers go home, then what comfort this letter of comfort will be?

    • I don’t think Dassault will go belly up. However, seeing the speed at which the offset partner is unravelling, perhaps they should have sought a sovereign guarantee from us …

  4. Dassault has secured an excellent deal. Even without the French government’s good offices, they will deliver. It would have been wonderful if the saving of € 574 million on account of bank guarantee not being furnished could have been split equally between Dassault and the IAF.

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