New version of Dassault statement indicates it may have been misinterpreted as being forced to pick Reliance Defence for Rafale offsets.
New Delhi: Has a Dassault Aviation document that said it was “imperative and mandatory” to move one of its assembly lines to India as part of the Rafale deal offsets condition been misinterpreted as the firm being forced to pick Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence for the offsets?
That is the question that arose Thursday after a French journalist indicated that a Dassault document on the controversial deal may have been lost in translation, sparking a fresh political furore in New Delhi.
The Dassault document of May 2017 was first reported by French news portal Mediapart Wednesday evening. It said Dassault Aviation, the maker of the Rafale, had told its workers that it was “imperative and mandatory” to choose Reliance Defence as its offsets partner.
The document was referring to the decision of the company to transfer its assembly line to produce the Falcon business jets to the joint venture Dassault Reliance Aerospace Ltd facility being built in Nagpur. And Dassault had to explain to its workers why it was not creating jobs for French labourers. Dassault identified Reliance as “counterpartie” or “counterpart” in the document.
The Mediapart report said: “At Dassault Aviation, according to a document obtained by Mediapart, the alliance with Ambani was indeed presented as a ‘counterpart’ to the Rafale sales contract.
“Dassault Aviation’s deputy chief executive officer, Loik Segalen, made this clear on May 11 2017 during a presentation of the Nagpur Dassault Reliance Aerospace joint venture to the staff representatives: ‘It was imperative and mandatory for Dassault Aviation to accept this counterpart, in order to get the export contract from India,’ said the no.2 (of) the group, according to elected staff,” the report added.
But Julien Boussiou, the South Asia correspondent of French newspaper Le Monde, interpreted the Dassault comment in the document differently. In a series of tweets Wednesday, Boussiou said Dassault was required to communicate important business decisions to trade unions in keeping with French labour laws.
“In May 2017, Dassault informed French trade unions about the construction of a plant in Nagpur, and explained to them why that plant could not be built in France (because of the offset),” he wrote.
Boussiou said the Mediapart report only pertained to the explanation Dassault gave workers on why the facility in question was being built in India. The explanation, he added, was “about French laws, not so much about Anil Ambani”.
Last month, Mediapart had quoted former French President Francois Hollande as saying that the Indian government had suggested that Dassault should take Reliance as its offsets partner in the Rafale deal.
But Hollande subsequently told news wire AFP in Canada that he was “not aware” if the Modi government ever lobbied for Reliance Defence and that “the partners chose themselves”.
This had led to finance minister Arun Jaitley writing that Hollande’s truth on Rafale cannot have two versions.
After the latest Mediapart report, Dassault issued a statement late Wednesday reiterating that “Dassault Aviation has freely chosen to make a partnership with India’s Reliance Group”.