The Hollande bombshell

Former French President Francois Hollande, during whose time the Rafale deal was finalized by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has dropped a veritable bombshell. He has told a French news portal that the French Government or the Dassault Company that makes the Rafale aircraft had nothing to do with the selection of Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence Ltd as the Indian offset partner for the manufacture of the aircraft. The Ambani company’s name was proposed by the Indian Government (read PM Modi) and Dassault had to take on board the Reliance Defence. It had no choice of its own. This statement of the ex-president of France is in complete contradiction of what the Prime Minister, the Defence Minister and the Finance Minister have been claiming in public – that the choice of Reliance as offset printer was a deal between Dassault and Reliance; the Indian Government had no part in it.
In the wake of the controversy created by Hollande’s statement, the French Foreign Ministry has issued a cautious statement saying: “The French government is no manner involved in the choice of Indian industrial partners who have been, are being, or will be selected by the French Government.” Indeed, as has been pointed out by Hollande, the French Govrnment (or Dassault) had nothing to do with the selection of the Indian partner. The Indian partner’s name was proposed by the Indian Prime Minister himself and the French Government and Dassault had to accept what the Indian side offered them.
The former French President’s revelation has only confirmed what the Congress has been maintaining all along that Reliance Defence – a company floated a few days before the contract was awarded to them having a huge debt burden – was brought into the picture by the Indian Prime Minister himself, ignoring the public sector undertaking Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) which has decades of experience in making sophisticated fighter aircraft like Sukhoi. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has stated in a press meet that the HAL “did not have the capability to build Rafale.” She was immediately contradicted by the former chief of Hal, T. Suvarna Raju who had just retired. 
There are now valid grounds for doubting the statements and claims made by the Indian Government on the selection of Reliance Defence, which has no experience of making aircraft, as the offset partner of Dassault. To clear the air of doubt and suspicion the Government should agree to the Opposition demand for setting up a Joint Parliamentary Committee to go into the deal. Refusal to do so will only strengthen the doubt that the Government is trying to hide something.

Tuesday, 25 September, 2018