We did not have the choice. "We took the interlocutor that was given to us", he was reported as telling the French news service Mediapart, fuelling a political storm in India.
Arun Jaitley reiterated that neither the Indian nor the French government had a role in Dassault Aviation choosing the local partner. Later on Friday, Dassault Aviation SA said its partnership with Anil Ambani's Reliance group for making parts of Falcon and Rafale aircraft was Dassault Aviation's choice.
"We did not have a say in this, The Indian government proposed this service group, and Dassault negotiated with Ambani".
The implied "conflict of interest" relates to the Reliance Group's investment of Euro 1.6 million in 2016, in a film produced by Hollande's partner, actress Julie Gayet. Initially, India had planned to buy 18 off-the-shelf jets from France, with 108 others to be assembled in the country by the state-run aerospace and Defence company HAL.
"Does Rahul Gandhi want to know what weapons Rafale carries so that Pakistan and China get all the information? We could have definitely done Rafale".
The former French President's first statement that the Indian business group's name was proposed by Government of India has now been substituted by him to the effect that the suggestion he is "not aware" of the Government of India ever lobbied for Reliance Defence. India's Ministry of Defence issues statement reiterating that neither of the two governments we're involved in commercial decision. "I am sure the Euro equivalent would not be a problem to calculate", he added. Tonight, on Left, Right and Center we ask, is the Hollande revelation a smoking gun? Noted lawyer Prashant Bhushan asked, "This is explosive!"
However, the former French president's comments appear to bolster long-standing allegations from the opposition Congress party that India's prime minister executed a deal that unduly benefited the Ambani family - which includes Anil Ambani's brother Mukesh Ambani, Asia's richest man.
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Sitharaman is also right in claiming that GOI had absolutely no formal role or say in Dassault's selecting RD. "This is Dassault Aviation's choice", the French company said.
The statement attributed to Hollande, who was speaking in French, was translated for The Telegraph by Basabi Pal, head of the French department at Chandernagore Government College in Hooghly, and Sudeshna Banerjee, a journalist with this newspaper. It has also claimed the previous deal included a technology transfer agreement with HAL. No manufacturing is to be done in India. The Modi government had unilaterally made a decision to bring down the numbers to just 36. Congress has been accusing Modi of helping Anil Ambani by recommending him to then French Government for Rafale.
The junior Ambani has threatened to file defamation case against the Congress party and has already served "cease and desist" notices to several Congress spokespersons. The government has also said the two deals are not comparable, that cost- and timing-issues would have ensured the older deal never closed, and that the planes it has ordered come with customized weaponry.
There is no "partnership", as suggested by the former President, with regard to the 36 Rafale aircrafts to be supplied by Dassault Aviation to the Government of India. In this Anil Ambani's Reliance Defence became the "offset" partner of the French.
Commenting on the controversy over Reliance's involvement in the deal, Prasad cited a February 2012 Times of India report which stated that Reliance Industries had signed a pact with Dassault Aviation for partnering in the defence and homeland security system in Asia's third largest economy.