Rafale Deal: A Questionable Statement Which Circumstances & Facts Demolish — ArunJaitley
The Congress Party’s official handle on August 31, 2018 had carried the tweet of one of its leader “It is evident that Anil Ambani bribed President Hollande through his actor-partner to get the Dassault partnership.” For the Congress Party to allege that a former President had been bribed by an Indian business group and then use him as a primary witness, particularly when he is facing criticism for an alleged conflict of interest within his own country.
A controversy is sought to be created on the basis of a statement made by the former French President Hollande, that the Reliance Defence ‘partnership’ with Dassault Aviation was entered at the suggestion of the Indian Government. In a subsequent statement the former President has sought to suggest that Reliance Defence emerged on the scene after the agreement with the Indian Government was entered into. He has, in a subsequent statement, said that he is ‘not aware’ if Government ever lobbied for Reliance Defence and that ‘the partners chose themselves’. Truth cannot have two versions.
The French Government and M/s Dassault Aviation have categorically denied the correctness of the former President’s first statement. The French Government has stated that the decision with regard to the offset contracts of Dassault Aviation are taken by the company and not the Government. Dassault Aviation itself has suggested that they have entered into multiple contracts with several public sector and private sector companies with regard to the offset contracts and the decision is entirely theirs.
Without commenting on the correctness or otherwise of a controversy in the French media, it may be mentioned that the former French President, Hollande, is countering statement made against him with regard to a conflict of interest in his dealing with the Reliance Defence.
The accuracy of the statements made by the individuals may be questioned but circumstances never lie. This is evident from the following facts:
• There is no ‘partnership’,as suggested by the former President, with regard to the 36 Rafale aircrafts to be supplied by Dassault Aviation to the Government of India. It was a Government to Government agreement under which the complete weaponised aircrafts are to come to the Indian Air Force. No manufacturing is to be done in India. It is, therefore, erroneous for anybody to suggest that there is a ‘partnership’ in the supply of the 36 Rafale aircrafts.
• M/s. Reliance Industries Ltd., in February, 2012, had entered into an MoU with Dassault Aviation. This was reported by the PTI on 12.2.2012. This was at a stage when the contract relating to 126 Rafale aircrafts, of which 18 were to be manufactured in France and 108 in India, was at an advance stage of consideration by the UPA Government. Rahul Gandhi’s misplaced criticism could equally apply to the 2012 MoU.
• The offset contract ensures investment by the original equipment supplier i.e. Dassault Aviation, in India, in as much as they make purchases from Indian companies to the extent of fifty percent (in this case). The choice of the offset partner under the 2005 offset policy is of M/s Dassault Aviation and they have selected several public and private sector companies to make the supplies.
• The offset partner is selected entirely by the Dassault Aviation, the original equipment manufacturer, and neither the French Government and nor the Indian Government has any say in the matter.
• It is no coincidence that on 30.8.2018 Shri Rahul Gandhi had tweeted that “Globalised corruption. This #Rafale aircraft really does fly far and fast! It's also going to drop some big bunker buster bombs in the next couple of weeks.”
The former French President’s first statement rhymes with Rahul Gandhi’s prediction.
• The Congress Party’s official handle on 31.8.2018 had carried the tweet of one of its leader “It is evident that Anil Ambani bribed President Hollande through his actor-partner to get the Dassault partnership.” For the Congress Party to allege that a former President had been bribed by an Indian business group and then use him as a primary witness, particularly when he is facing criticism for an alleged conflict of interest within his own country.
• The former French President’s first statement that the Indian business group’s name was proposed by Government of India has now been substituted by him to the effect that the suggestion he is ‘not aware’ of the Government of India ever lobbied for Reliance Defence. He further said that the ‘partners’ chose themselves (AFP Report dated 22.9.2018).
• Rahul Gandhi has made an absurd suggestion that the interest of Indian soldiers has been compromised with. By whom? The UPA which delayed the acquisition which would have added to the Military’s combat ability or the NDA which expedited the same at a lower cost.
One Reliance Group was a part of this deal since 2012. It dropped out of defence production. The other Reliance Group was already in defence. They are not partners in the Rafale deal. They have no contract with either Government of India or Government of France. They were not selected as one of the many offset partners by any Government. ‘The partners (Dassault and Reliance) selected themselves’ as former President Hollande now says. This contradicts his first questionable statement which the French Government and Dassault have denied. The facts contradict the same. His second statement in Montreal, Canada to AFP makes the veracity of his first statement even more questionable.