Nirmala Sitharaman Explains Rafale Factory Visit, Amid Cover-Up Allegations

Nirmala Sitharaman Explains Rafale Factory Visit, Amid Cover-Up Allegations

Nirmala Sitharaman Explains Rafale Factory Visit, Amid Cover-Up Allegations 

New Delhi: The Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is on a three-day visit to France, today refuted Congress allegations that she has gone on a cover-up exercise. The Defence Minister also insisted that the government had no part in the selection of Anil Ambani's Reliance Defence as a joint venture partner in the Rafale deal. She said that it was choice of the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer), in this case Dassault, whom they want as their offset partner.

"It is a government to government agreement between the French and Indian governments and there is no name mentioned and this offset obligation maybe mandatory, but the names of the company are not mandatory for me," the minister told NDTV in Paris. 

Ms Sitharaman, added, "As for the visit to Dassault, it is an invitation and also I'm a buyer, so I would definitely go and see."

The Congress allegations about irregularities in the deal had got sharper after a French media report yesterday said the aerospace major had to select Anil Ambani's company for the joint venture as a "mandatory" trade-off to win the 59,000-crore deal. 

Supporting the former French president Francois Hollande's claims, Mediapart reported that a Dassault officer, Loik Segalan, had explained to his staff at a presentation last year that the joint venture with Reliance Defence was "imperative and obligatory". 

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Dassault contested the Mediapart report, saying it had "freely chosen" to form a joint venture with Reliance.

Eric Trappier, the CEO of Dassault Aviation told news agency AFP that a joint factory with Reliance in Nagpur represented "around 10 percent" of the roughly four billion euros of offset investments. He said, "We're in talks with about 100 Indian firms, including around 30 with which we've already confirmed partnerships."

The Congress has been alleging the government over the 36-aircraft deal, saying the government was procuring each aircraft at a cost of over Rs. 1,670 crore in front of the deal worth Rs. 526 crore initially finalised by the UPA government.

 Congress chief Rahul Gandhi tweeted, hours after the report made headlines.

 

The Congress President also levelled allegations of corruption against PM Modi - accusations that drew a sharp response from the BJP. 

Mr Gandhi was trying to make his political career by peddling lies on the Rafale fighter jet deal, said party spokesperson Sambit Patra. 

Mr Patra called Former Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi,  "an official middleman in another deal", Mr Patra said, "Dassault has agreed to the 50 per cent offset, it is mandatory, it was a norm set by Congress".

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