‘Dassault had no option but to tie up with Ambani company’
New Delhi, Oct 11: A French media website late on Wednesday claimed an internal document of Dassault Aviation showed the fighter manufacturer was presented with no option but to tie up with Anil Ambani-led Reliance Defence as the main offsets partner in the Rs 59,000-crore contract for 36 jets.
French investigative website Mediapart, which last month quoted former French President François Hollande as claiming the Indian government had virtually thrust Reliance Defence as offsets partner on France, on Wednesday said it had a Dassault document proving the same. The report came even as defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman left for a three-day visit to France on Wednesday night.
Mediapart claimed the document showed the alliance with Reliance Defence was indeed presented as "a trade-off" to obtain the contract, quoting a presentation made by Dassault's deputy chief executive officer Loik Segalen to the company's staff representatives in Nagpur. The partnership with Reliance Defence was described as "imperative and mandatory", as per the report.
Previously, Hollande had seemed to distance himself from the quotes attributed to him by the website. An AFP report said when asked about India pitching for the Reliance Group, Hollande said he was unaware of this and that the French firm would be able to address the issue.
The French government and Dassault promptly rebutted Hollande's claim last month. The Indian defence ministry, too, dismissed the controversy as "unnecessary", maintaining it had never suggested any company's name as the offsets partner in the deal. Under the contract, the French companies involved must plough back 50% of the contract value to India as offsets or re-investments.
The MoD says, "As per offsets guidelines, the vendor (Dassault) is to provide the details of the offset partners either at the time of seeking offset credits or one year prior to discharge of offset obligations, which in this case will be due from 2020."
The French government said it was "in no manner involved" in the choice of Indian industrial partners which have been, or are being, selected by the French companies involved in the deal. "French companies have the full freedom to choose the Indian partner companies that they consider to be the most relevant, and then present for the Indian government's approval the offsets projects that they wish to execute with their local partners," it said.