United Nations: In a big boost to the Narendra Modi-led NDA government, French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday reaffirmed that the Rafale fighter jet deal between India and France was a government-to-government deal.
Extending support to PM Modi, who is at the centre of Opposition attack over the controversial defence deal, Macron also said that the Indian PM is right in claiming so.
However, he refused to say more on the defence deal.
#WATCH: PM Modi is right. That's a Govt to Govt discussion.We have a very strong partnership between India and France regarding Defence. I don’t want to comment on any other thing, says French President Emmanuel Macron on #RafaleDeal pic.twitter.com/J9DugZIxnQ
— ANI (@ANI) September 26, 2018
''PM Modi is right. That's a Govt-to-Govt discussion. We have a very strong partnership between India and France regarding Defence. I don’t want to comment on any other thing,'' French President Emmanuel Macron told ANI.
The French President had earlier distanced himself from the controversy, saying he was not in power when the multi-billion dollar agreement for the 36 fighter jets was signed between New Delhi and Paris.
While addressing a press conference on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session, Macron was asked if the Indian Government had at any point told France or Dassault - the French aerospace major - that they had to accept Reliance Defence as the Indian partner for the Rafale deal.
India had inked an inter-governmental agreement with France in September last year for procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets at a cost of around Rs 58,000 crore, nearly one-and-half years after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the proposal during a visit to Paris.
The delivery of the jets is scheduled to begin from September 2019.
"I will be very clear. It was a government-to-government discussion and I just want to refer to what Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi very clearly said a few days ago," Macron, who became French President in May last year, had told reporters here on Tuesday without elaborating.
"I don't have any other comment. I was not in charge at that time and I know that we have very clear rules," he said in his first comment on the issue.
Macron, who assumed the presidency in May last year, emphasised that this is a government-to-government discussion and "this contract is part of a broader framework which is military and defence" coalition between India and France.
"This one is very important to me because this is a strategic" coalition and not just an industrial relation. "That is my point. I just want to refer to what PM Modi said on this situation," he said.
While Prime Minister Modi has not spoken on the Rafale controversy himself, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and other senior ministers have asserted that people of India have put a closure to the issue, saying there were no irregularities.
Prime Minister Modi had announced the procurement of a batch of 36 Rafale jets after holding talks with the then French president Francois Hollande on April 10, 2015, in Paris.
The final deal was sealed on September 23, 2016.
The French government has said it was in no manner involved in the choice of Indian industrial partners.
The Rafale deal has landed in the trouble waters after a report in the French media quoted former president Hollande as saying that the selection of the Indian company in the Rafale deal was done at the behest of New Delhi.
Hollande said that the Indian government proposed Reliance Defence as the partner for the French aerospace giant in the Rafale deal and France did not have a choice.
His comments to 'Mediapart', a French-language publication, triggered sharp reactions from the opposition parties which have been accusing the government of massive irregularities in the deal and benefiting Reliance Defence Limited despite not having any experience in the aerospace sector.
The report quoted Hollande as saying, "It was the Indian Government that proposed this service group, and Dassault which negotiated with (Anil) Ambani. We had no choice, we took the interlocutor who was given to us."
In its statement, Dassault Aviation said the contract for the supply of 36 Rafale jets is a government-to-government agreement, adding, "It provides for a separate contract in which Dassault Aviation commits to make compensation investments (offsets) in India worth 50 percent of the value of the purchase."
The company also said its partnership with Reliance has led to the creation of the Dassault Reliance Aerospace Ltd (DRAL) joint-venture in February 2017.
It is to be noted that the Congress has been demanding a JPC probe into the Rafale deal, which it said was the biggest defence scam of the country.
However, after the French President's confirmation, the ruling BJP has hit back at the Congress party and accused it of running a smear campaign to defame the Modi government at the international level.
(With PTI inputs)