Rafale deal: A case of conflict that led to startling revelation

New Delhi: The French investigative journal – which published Francois Hollande’s shocking revelation on the Rafale deal – has confirmed that they have substantial evidence to back their story wherein former French president was quoted saying that it was the Indian government that proposed Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence as a partner in fighter jet contract.

According to NDTV, editor-in-chief of French journal Mediapart – Edwy Plenel – said that Hollande made the disclosure while they were probing a probability of link between Reliance Entertainment producing a film with his partner and actor Julie Gayet and Ambani landing the Rafale deal.

The follow-up reports by the French website claimed that Ambani’s company had entered into a deal for the film just two days before the former French president came to New Delhi in 2016 as the Republic Day chief guest and signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Prime Minister Narendra Modi for delivering 36 Rafale aircraft.

“We asked… if there’s possibly a conflict of interest as Gayet could have received money from Ambani, who was pitching for the (Rafale) deal. Francois Hollande denied any such conflict of interest and said: ‘The choice (to pick Reliance) was dictated by Indian government and we did not have a choice’,” Plenel said.

Denying the charge, a defence ministry spokesperson tweeted that the Mediapart report “is being verified” and that “neither GoI (government of India) nor the French Government had any say in the commercial decision.”

Plenel, however, said his publication stood by the story. He added that they have a declaration and all the details of the interview.

Conflict of interest

  • When asked if he got any indication from Hollande as to who from India asked for Reliance Defence to be picked as the offset component partner, Plenel said: “We didn’t ask that because our investigation was about conflict of interest.”
  • The Indian government has repeatedly said it was Dassault that had picked the Anil Ambani group as its India partner and that the government had nothing to do with what was essentially a commercial pact between two private parties.

Reliance Defence

  • The Anil Ambani-led group is manufacturing aerospace components as part of the offset component of the Rafale deal. The clause requires Rafale manufacturer Dassault to ensure that business worth around Rs. 30,000 crores is generated for the Indian defence system.
  • Reliance Defence is not making components for the Rafales ordered by India but is building assemblies for Dassault business jets.
  • The report is set to escalate a massive row in India as the opposition alleges crony capitalism in the nomination of Reliance Defence, since the group has no prior experience in aerospace manufacturing.
  • Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who has been attacking the PM over the Rafale deal, tweeted to say “the PM has betrayed India”.