Monday, September 24, 2018

What makes Modi's Rafale deal so controversial?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is implicated in a snowballing scandal related to the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France. Former French President Francois Hollande revealed in an interview released on September 21, 2018, that France did not have any other choice except for one company recommended by New Delhi for the deal. Owned by Anil Ambani, Reliance Aerostructure Limited – with no experience in aerospace manufacturing – became French aviation company Dassault Rafale's partner in India.

On Friday, Hollande, who was responsible for clearing the deal between the governments during his tenure, was quoted as stating that New Delhi had pressured Dassault to choose Reliance. Anil Ambani is the son of the late Dhirubhai Ambani, one of India’s most powerful and richest business moguls.

Hollande stated, “We did not have a say in this. The Indian government proposed this group, and Dassault [the company that manufactured the jets] negotiated with Ambani. We did not have a choice, we took the interlocutor who was given to us.”

Investigative journalists Karl Laske and Anton Rouget reported that Ambani’s Reliance Defence provided funding for a film produced by President Hollande’s partner, actress Julie Gayet. Ambani funded Gayet's film when the deal for 36 fighter jets with Reliance was completed.

While Reliance appeared in the film’s credits, it was not mentioned in financing details presented to France’s public body responsible for cinema. The film did not mention India, or distribute in it. Former President Hollande is likely speaking now given the focus on his partner’s film relative to the deal. In an attempt to deny this, he has declared the Reliance Defence was picked because France was given no choice by the Indian government. “I could not even imagine that there was any connection to a film by Julie Gayet,” he stated.

The focus of the scandal rests on Prime Minister Modi’s sudden decision to secretly end a previous deal that sought 18 fighter jets from France and largely focused on training the local workforce through the transfer of technology. Instead of relying on foreign imports, the previous government led by the Congress party aimed at manufacturing 108 aircrafts in India. But Modi single-handedly changed the terms of the deal and agreed to procure 36 fighter jets.
24/09/18 Adam Bensaid/TRT World