Visitors look at a Dassault Aviation Rafale Omnirole fighter jet. (Photographer: Antoine Antoniol/Bloomberg News)

Rafale Deal: France Says No Pressure Put For Offset Partner

Amid a raging political row over the Rafale deal, France said there was “absolutely no pressure” on it for selecting an offset partner.

The French government’s assertion comes a day after the much-awaited Comptroller and Auditor General report showed that the Rafale deal signed by the Modi government to procure 36 fighter jets from Dassault got 2.86 percent cheaper price than what was negotiated during the previous regime in 2007.

At an interaction with a select group of journalists in New Delhi, French Ambassador to India Alexandre Ziegler asserted that there was “nothing stronger” in his country’s system than an inter-governmental agreement that protects the deal.

“In our system, when a government signs a deal under its name, we are responsible as a government for supply, price and delivery,” he said underlining the strong commitment of the French government to the deal.

His remarks assume significance as they come amid questions being raised over the absence of a sovereign guarantee in the deal.

The CAG in its report on the Rafale deal, has highlighted the drawbacks of settling for a Letter of Comfort rather than a sovereign guarantee by the French government.

Highlighting its concerns, the CAG has observed that in case of a breach of agreement, India would now have to first settle the matter through arbitration directly with the French vendors.

Asked if there was any pressure from the Indian side to select an offset partner in the deal, the French envoy said: “There was absolutely no pressure on the French government.”

The Congress led by its president Rahul Gandhi has been accusing the Modi government of helping Anil Ambani make a profit of Rs 30,000 crore by helping him get an offset contract under the deal.

The government as well as Ambani have denied all allegations.

A French media report last year had quoted former French President Francois Hollande as purportedly saying that the Indian government proposed Reliance Defence as the partner for Dassault Aviation in the Rs 58,000 crore Rafale deal and France did not have a choice.

Hollande, however, later was quoted as saying that France “did not choose Reliance in any way.”

When asked whether India had put pressure on Reliance and Dassault to work together, Hollande had said he was unaware and “only Dassault can comment on this.”

On France's participation in the Aero India in Bengaluru, the French envoy said his country will bring the strongest foreign delegation with 49 major firms and small and medium-sized enterprises will cover the entire civil and defence aerospace sectors.

France offers co-development and transfer of technology aimed at bolstering India's strategic autonomy and the ‘Make in India’ programme, he said.

Also read: CAG Report on Rafale Has Vindicated Modi Govt’s Stand: Jaitley