Centre had no role in French firm Dassault picking Reliance Group as partner: Anil Ambani on Rafale deal

Anil Ambani had written the two-page letter on the Rafale jet deal to Congress president on December 12, 2017.

Centre had no role in French firm Dassault picking Reliance Group as partner: Anil Ambani on Rafale deal

NEW DELHI: Billionaire industrialist Anil Ambani had rejected allegations that his Reliance Group lacked adequate experience to get the Rafale fighter jet deal while also maintaining that the Centre had no role in French Group Dassault picking up his company as a local partner.

Anil Ambani had said this in a two-page letter addressed to Congress president Rahul Gandhi nearly eight months back in which also sought to explain why his group bagged the multi-billion dollar project. 

In the letter, written on December 12, 2017, Ambani also invoked his family's "respectful relationship" with the Gandhi family over generations and said that he was "personally saddened" by the "unfortunate statements" against him and his group by several functionaries of the Congress party.

"Not only do we have the necessary experience but we are also the leaders in several important areas of defence manufacture," Anil said in the letter.

The letter was written by Anil – the younger brother of billionaire industrialist Mukesh Ambani - on the last day of campaigning for the Gujarat assembly polls that was marked by political mud-slinging over the Rafale fighter jet deal.

In order to substantiate his claim, Anil said that the Reliance Defence has the largest shipyard in the private sector at Pipavav in Gujarat and is currently building five Naval Offshore Patrol Vessels (NOPVs) for the Indian Navy and 14 Fast Patrol Vessels for the Indian Coast Guard.

"The decision of the Government of India to purchase 36 Rafale fighter jets from France was made through an inter-governmental agreement signed between the two countries. Also, all these 36 aircraft are being manufactured in France and will be delivered on a 'fly away' basis from Dassault manufacturing facilities in France to the Indian Air Force and no Indian company has any role to play," he said.

''Dassault choose Reliance Group as its joint venture partner to meet the 'offset' or export obligation component of the deal and this was "an independent agreement between two corporate private sector entities, and Governments had no role to play in this matter," he wrote.

The news about Anil Ambani's letter to Rahul Gandhi came to fore at a time when the Opposition has stepped up its attack on the Narendra Modi government over the Rafale deal.

Rahul Gandhi has been attacking the government on the deal which he claims was inked at a much higher price than the one the previous UPA regime had negotiated. 

Last week, during the debate on the no-confidence motion in the Lok Sabha, Rahul Gandhi accused the government of changing the deal to benefit "one businessman".

In his letter, Anil said that his group's joint venture with Dassault was to make components and systems primarily for the aerospace and defence sectors.

"This joint venture with Dassault Aviation will lead to creation of thousands of jobs in India, imparting of valuable training and skill-sets to Indian engineers in aerospace/ defence manufacturing sector, and will also provide large scale business opportunities to hundreds of MSMEs, SMEs and start-ups in the country, and will further enhance our experience and skills," he wrote.

Also, Dassault would significantly contribute to high technology transfer and enhance overall defence manufacturing experience. 

Rejecting Rahul's allegations of being inexperienced, Ambani said his father Dhirubhai built the world's largest integrated petrochemicals and refinery complex in India without even having a formal education, much less any experience or legacy.

"In his words, 'you have to be given an opportunity to perform. It's not experience but the mindset, dedication, and the purpose, of a strong India that should engage us all'," he wrote, adding that the facts he has brought out would be "helpful" to Gandhi.

Similar letters were also sent to other senior Congress leaders, including the party's communication department in-charge Randeep Surjewala.

It is to be noted that Congress has demanded the government to constitute a Parliamentary Joint Committee to probe facts related to Rafale deal as it was done in the Bofors case.

(With Agency inputs)