Dassault Aviation, at the heart of the Rafale defence deal controversy, has trashed reports by French media that it had no choice but to pick Anil Ambani's Reliance Defence to secure the Rs 58,000 crore deal with India. "Dassault Aviation has freely chosen to make a partnership with India’s Reliance Group. This joint-venture, Dassault Reliance Aerospace Ltd (DRAL), was created February 10, 2017," Dassault Aviation stated in a press release dated Wednesday.
It added that the deal was signed within the framework of the government of India's agreement. "Within the framework of the September 2016 Inter-Government Agreement between France and India, Dassault Aviation has sold 36 Rafale aircraft to India. In compliance with the Indian regulations (Defence Procurement Procedure) and as frequent with such a contract, Dassault Aviation has committed to offsets in India worth 50% of the value of the purchase," stated the French defence company.
The statement comes in the backdrop of fresh revelations by the French media earlier on Wednesday. Investigative media portal Mediapart had reported that they have accessed the internal document of Dassault Aviation, which mentions that choosing Anil Ambani's Reliance Defence as the offset partner in India was “imperative and mandatory” for the deal.
Mediapart's revelations came even as Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman left for France on Wednesday night on a three-day visit "to deepen strategic cooperation between the two countries". Sitharaman is also expected to take stock of the progress in the supply of the Rafale jets by Dassault to the Indian Air Force. There was indication that she may even visit the facility where the jets are being manufactured.
The Mediapart report is on a par with former French president Francois Hollande's claim last month that France was given "no choice" on selection of the Indian partner for Dassault and that the Indian government proposed the name of Reliance to partner with the French aerospace giant.