Indian Defence Minister rebuts Rafale allegations
Paris, France - India’s Defence Minister faced new questions over a 2016 deal to buy Rafale fighter jets from France, which critics say unfairly profited a key backer of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Speaking at a briefing in Paris, Nirmala Sitharaman reiterated the government’s claim that it had no idea the jets’ builder, Dassault Aviation, would team up with Reliance Group, run by the Indian billionaire Anil Ambani.
Several reports say Dassault was forced to choose Reliance by Modi. French website Mediapart quoted the notes of a meeting between Dassault management and workers’ representatives which described the choice of Reliance as ‘imperative and compulsory’. “We are very clear: With the government of France, we agreed to purchase 36 Rafale aircraft in flyaway condition,” Sitharaman said. “And in an intergovernmental agreement, there are no mentions of any individual firms,” she said.
Pressed on whether India would go ahead with the deal amid a chorus of ‘crony capitalism’ claims, she said. “It is more for the companies which have chosen A, B or C as their partners to answer questions if there are any,” she said.
India’s Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman (left) in Paris