Former French President Francois Hollande on Friday caused a political earthquake by revealing that it was the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who suggested the name of Anil Ambani as the Indian offset partner of Dassault Aviation in the Rafale deal.
Speaking to a French journal, Mediapart.fr, Hollande said, “We didn’t have any say in this matter.” The former French President went on to add, “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.”
His last sentence was in reference to a charge that the French government would have preferred Anil Ambani over the Indian government-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited in exchange of Reliance providing funding for a film produced by Hollande’s personal partner and actress Julie Gayet.
The revelation caused political tremors in India with even some of the hardcore supporters of Modi conceding that the prime minister may struggle to find an escape route after Hollande’s sensational comments.
While the defence ministry spokesperson struggled to issue a categorical response, Congress President Rahul Gandhi sounded menacing as he accused Modi of dishonouring ‘the blood of our soldiers.’
The microblogging site Twitter exploded as six out of the top ten trending hashtags were around the explosive revelation on Rafale. However, what almost every media outlet, genuinely interested in the story, missed was another equally stunning aspect of the Rafale story hidden in the report, published by the French journal.
The French security experts that Mediapart.fr spoke to expressed serious concerns on the future of the partnership between Dassault and Anil Ambani’s Reliance. It highlighted with utmost concern that the Anil Ambani-owned defence company had come into being only 12 days prior to Modi’s announcement of the Rafale deal in Paris (this was highlighted by Janta Ka Reporter last year when we broke the story in our three-part series, You can read them here Part 1 and Part 2 and Part 3).
Quoting security experts, the French website wrote, “There is a serious industrial risk for Dassault because we’re dealing with a company that has never built an aircraft and which has never been involved in defence.” Those experts, whose names have been withheld, further added, “The planned compensations represent colossal sums, and one must ask the question about the capacity of local industry to absorb the transfer of technologies.”
The French journal also confirmed the point first raised by Janta Ka Reporter that ‘the initial price of the Rafale fighters had risen by 300% from when the very first negotiations began, while the consequences for Hindustan Aeronautics have been catastrophic.’
All these facts are bound to cause considerable embarrassment to Modi and his government in the time to come. It’s, therefore, not surprising that the defence ministry spokesperson has merely stated that it was verifying the French journal’s revelation.
The report by France’s Mediapart.fr has conclusively established that the points raised by Janta Ka Reporter were spot on.
(The quotes used in this story are taken from the French journal and based on the official English translation issued by Mediapart.fr)