Monday, 30th October 2017

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French riddle in latest Rafale salvo

Dassault senior member says Reliance joint venture was a 'trade-off' for bagging Rafale deal

By Our Bureau in New Delhi
  • Published 11.10.18, 3:39 AM
  • Updated 11.10.18, 3:39 AM
  • 2 mins read
  •  
Then French President Francois Hollande being embraced by Prime Minister Modi in New Delhi in 2016 File picture

Mediapart, the French portal whose interview with former President Francois Hollande had shaken the Narendra Modi government, has published a new report with the potential to inject fresh life into the Rafale scandal.

“According to an internal Dassault document obtained by Mediapart, a senior member of the aviation group had explained to the staff representatives that the joint venture was a ‘contrepartie’, ‘imperative and mandatory’ to win the Rafale market,” the portal reported late on Wednesday night Indian time.

Dassault is the maker of the Rafale fighter planes whose purchase is at the centre of a controversy that is refusing to die as India approaches the general election.

In a subsequent paragraph, the portal said that “Dassault Aviation’s deputy chief executive officer Loik Segalen said this clearly on May 11, 2017, during a presentation of the joint venture Dassault Reliance Aerospace to staff representatives: ‘It is imperative and obligatory for Dassault Aviation to accept this ‘contrepartie’ to obtain the export contract for Rafale India’.”

In its English version, the portal itself has translated ‘contrepartie’ as “counterpart”.

A French journalist based in New Delhi, who did not want to be named because he works for another media organisation, said “bargain is the closest word I see in English for ‘contrepartie’”. Multiple Indian portals translated the word as “trade-off” also.

If confirmed, this would mean that Anil Ambani’s Reliance joint venture with Dassault was presented as the “bargain” or “trade-off” for granting the French company the crucial Rafale deal.

Read with the previous statement of Hollande to Mediapart that the name of Reliance was proposed by the Indian government, the new claim will have explosive consequences for the Modi dispensation that had insisted it had nothing to do with Ambani’s firm being picked as partner by the French company.

However, matters are still not crystal clear. The French journalist based in Delhi pointed out that the Mediapart report made it clear “it was imperative and compulsory for Dassault to accept this bargain to get the Rafale India export contract”.

However, the journalist added a crucial rider: “What I am not sure is whether he (Dassault official Segalen) was referring to the ‘bargain’ of having to do joint venture with an Indian company (which was a requirement to fulfil the offset clause) or specifically partnering with Ambani.

“Some portals have opted for the latter interpretation but you would need to see the full document or at least his preceding sentences before reaching such a conclusion.”

The Telegraph could not contact any Dassault official for clarification because of the late hour.