In a new twist in the ongoing Rafale controversy, former French President Francois Hollande said that Dassault Aviation was given no choice but to partner with Anil Ambani-led Reliance Defence for the offset clause in the Rafale fighter jet deal.
In an interview to a media house, Hollande on a question about who selected Reliance as a partner and why, said it was the Indian government that proposed Reliance's name and Dassault had no choice but to take the company given to it, as reported by news agency ANI.
1) Dear friends, dear Indian journalists. Here is an extract of the article published by @mediapart this afternoon, and quoting François Hollande on the #rafale deal. It's in French and I would STRONGLY advise you not to use google translate.
— julien bouissou (@jubouissou) September 21, 2018
Quoting an article, published by French journal Mediapart, ANI reported, "We did not have a say in that. The Indian government proposed this service group, and Dassault negotiated with Ambani. We did not have a choice, we took the interlocutor we were given," said Hollande.
The interview was published in French and excerpts of Hollande's interview were tweeted by French Newspaper LeMonde journalist Julien Boissou.
Hollande's reported statement contradicts Indian government's claim that the agreement between Dassault and Reliance was a commercial pact between two private parties and the government had nothing to do with it.
Congress leader Manish Tewari on Friday immediately retweeted this article and asked Hollande, "President (Former) Francois Hollande should also enlighten us how the price went up from 590 crores in 2012 to 1690 crores in 2015 per Rafale fighter jet? Escalation of a mere 1100 crores. I am sure the Euro equivalent would not be a problem to calculate."
Responding to Congress attacks on the government for keeping Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) out of the Rafale deal under offset clause, both Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman have been constantly stressing that Dassault and Reliance got into an agreement on their own.
Former chairman and managaing director (CMD) of HAL, T Suvarna Raju, in an interview to a media house claimed that Dassault and HAL had signed the mutual workshare contract and given it to the government. He further said that the life-cycle costs of the aircraft would have been cheaper if the aircraft were made in India.
However, contradicting this, defence sources on Thursday claimed disagreements between HAL and Dassault Aviation had led to the collapse of negotiations between the two in the Rafale fighter plane deal during the UPA term.