On anniversary of surgical strikes, Former French President Francois Hollande does ‘Rafale strike’ on PM Modi

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Microblogging site Twitter on Friday exploded after Former French President François Hollande’s ‘revelation’ that his government had no say in choosing the Indian partner for the Rafale deal. Hollande, with whom Prime Minister Narendra Modi had signed the controversial Rafale jets deal, was quoted as saying that the decision to choose Anil Ambani as the Indian partner was not a decision taken by Dassault Aviation.
Rafale

“We didn’t have a choice. We took the partner that was given to us,” French newspaper Le Monde’s south Asia reporter, Julien Bouissou, quoted Hollande as saying.

The report published by a French news website mediapart.fr quoted Hollande as saying, “The Indian government proposed this service group and Dassault negotiated this with Ambani.” The paper added the statements by Hollande sharply contradicted the version being put forward by the Modi government, which has maintained that Dassault alone had chosen Anil Ambani’s Reliance as the Indian partner.

“The Indian government proposed this service group, and Dassault negotiated with Ambani. We did not have a choice, we took the interlocutor who was given to us. That’s why, on the other hand, this group did not have to give me any thanks for anything. I could not even imagine that there was any connection to a film by Julie Gayet. ”

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had recently said that another reason why the deal between Dassault and the government-owned HAL could not come to fruition was because the two could not agree on the production details.

Sitharaman’s comments met with a rebuttal from the recently retired HAL chief, T Suvarna Raju, who told a leading daily, “When HAL can build a 25 tonne Sukhoi 30 from raw material stage, then what are we talking about? We could have definitely done Rafale.”

Responding to the explosive revelation, the defence ministry spokesperson tweeted, “The report referring to former French President Mr. Hollande’s statement that GoI insisted upon a particular firm as offset partner for the Dassault Aviation in Rafale is being verified. It is reiterated that neither GoI nor French Govt had any say in the commercial decision.”

Congress leader Manish Tewari too shared the original article urged Hollande to 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,” he added.

No sooner the news of Hollande’s explosive revelation broke, Twitterati began to ask the Modi government to explain its stand. Noted lawyer Prashant Bhushan asked, “This is explosive! Former French President Hollande, with whom Modi signed the new deal for 36 Rafale planes, says that the French & Dassault had no say in selecting Ambani as the partner (commission agent?) For the deal! Was recommended by Modi. Is this also secret Modiji?”

User Sid, a lawyer by profession, wrote, “Wow this is BIG … Ex President of France breaks his silence .. says Indian Govt asked France to partner with Anil Ambani The French had no choice Gali Gali mein shoe hai desh ka Chowkidaar……”

Journalist Swati Chaturvedi tweeted, “Dear @PMOIndia do tell us or does the secrecy clause involve keeping mum on this? Hollander says your govt asked for the partnership with Ambani. #RafaleDeal>”

Journalist Rajdeep Sardesai tweeted, “On the anniversary of surgical strikes, former French President Francois Hollande has done a Rafale strike!”

Janta Ka Reporter in its three part series last had first exposed the scam in the purchase of Rafale jets from the French company Dassault aviation.  (You can read them here Part 1 and Part 2 and Part 3).

In our expose, we had highlighted how the Modi government had junked the previous deal struck between the then UPA government and the French company Dassault Aviation to strike a new deal, which was considerably more expensive.

Key grounds that the Modi government allegedly lost to in the new deal was forgoing the clause on transfer of technology, while agreeing to pay nearly three times more money for each aircraft.

Another contentious point under the news deal was the joint venture struck between Anil Ambani’s newly formed defence company and Dassault Aviation. Under the old deal, being negotiated by the UPA government, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, was to get the contract for manufacturing the aircraft in India. The HAL has years of experience in manufacturing fighter jets.

The Congress-led UPA government had planned to buy 126 jets in accordance with the urgent requirement of the Air Force. The Modi government had unilaterally decided to bring down the numbers to just 36.

The Congress has accused the Modi government of doing away with the old deal primarily to promote crony capitalism as the new deal allegedly favoured the prime minister’s businessman friend, Anil Ambani.

The junior Ambani has threatened to file defamation case against the Congress party and has already served ‘cease and desist’ notices to several Congress spokespersons. Congress President Rahul Gandhi had recently told reporters in Delhi that Modi was lying on the Rafale deal.

Hours after Hollande’s stunner, the French government issued a clarification. Its statement read, “The intergovernmental agreement signed on 23rd September 2016 between the French and Indian governments for supplying India with 36 Rafale aircraft concerns the obligations of the French government solely with regard to ensuring the delivery and quality of this equipment.

“The French government is in no manner involved in the choice of Indian industrial partners who have been, are being, or will be selected by French companies. In accordance with India’s acquisition procedure, French companies have the full freedom to choose the Indian partner companies that they consider to be the most relevant, then present for the Indian government’s approval the offsets projects that they wish to execute in India with these local partners so as to fulfil their obligations in this regard.

“As it happens, agreements have already been signed by French companies with many Indian firms, both public and private, under the framework of Indian laws.”

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