French news portal Mediapart has reported that a top official of Dassault Aviation explained to his staff in May 2017 that the firm’s joint venture with Anil Ambani’s Reliance group for discharging offsets in the 36-Rafale deal was a “condition”, “imperative and obligatory” to win the deal for 36 Rafale aircraft from India.
On 21 September, former French president Francois Hollande had told the same media house that France was not given an option of choosing a local partner for Dassault Aeronautics. Hollande had added that Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence was chosen by the Indian government. The document obtained by Mediapartshows that Dassault considered this alliance as a “counterpart”, and “imperative and obligatory” to get the market, the report noted.
Dassault Aviation, however, has denied the report. According to a statement released by Dassault, “Within the framework of September 2016 Inter-Govt Agreement between France and India, Dassault Aviation sold 36 Rafale aircraft to India. In compliance with Indian regulations (Defence Procurement Procedure), Dassault Aviation committed to offsets worth 50% of the value of the purchase. In order to deliver some of these offsets, Dassault Aviation has decided to create a joint venture. Dassault Aviation has freely chosen to make a partnership with India’s Reliance Group. This joint-venture, Dassault Reliance Aerospace Ltd (DRAL), was created February 10, 2017.”
The French media portal in its report said the Dassault Aviation’s document was based on what the aircraft manufacturer’s deputy CEO Loïk Segalen said during a presentation of the Dassault Reliance Aerospace joint venture to staff representatives in Nagpur in May 2017. “It was imperative and mandatory for Dassault Aviation to accept this counterpart in order to get the contract,” the report quoted the purported document as saying.
The opposition has accused the government of ignoring the state-run defence company Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to benefit Anil Ambani. Both the government and the industrialist have rubbished the charge.