Dassault, not govt, chose Reliance as Rafale partner: Anil Ambani
26 July 2018
Reliance Naval and Engineering Limited (formerly Reliance Defence and Engineering Limited) chairman Anil Ambani had refuted allegations by Congress president Rahul Gandhi of favouring his company in the Rafale fighter jet deal, maintaining that the government had no role in French Group Dassault picking up his company as a local partner.
Rahul Gandhi had also alleged that Reliance Defence lacked adequate experience to be local partner in Rafale aircraft production.
While the Congress president alleged overpayment for the French fighter jet, documents available with the defence ministry and the Indian Air Force show NDA the government, on the contrary, saved Rs59 crore per each Rafale aircraft.
In a letter addressed to Congress president Rahul Gandhi, on 12 December 2017, Anil Ambani had sought to explain how his group bagged the multi-billion dollar project.
"Not only do we have the necessary experience but we are also the leaders in several important areas of defence manufacture," Anil said in the letter.
Ambani, in the two-page letter, had also invoked his family's "respectful relationship" with the Gandhi family and that he was "personally saddened" by the "unfortunate statements" against him and his group by several functionaries of the Congress party.
"Not only do we have the necessary experience but we are also the leaders in several important areas of defence manufacture," Anil had said in the letter.
Ambani wrote the letter on the last day of campaigning for the Gujarat assembly polls that was marked by political mud-slinging over the Rafale fighter jet deal.
Ambani refuted allegation over his company’s eligibility stating that Reliance Defence has the largest shipyard in the private sector at Pipavav in Gujarat and is currently building five Naval Offshore Patrol Vessels (NOPVs) for the Indian Navy and 14 Fast Patrol Vessels for the Indian Coast Guard.
In his letter, Ambani said that his group's joint venture with Dassault was to make components and systems primarily for the aerospace and defence sectors.
"This joint venture with Dassault Aviation will lead to creation of thousands of jobs in India, imparting of valuable training and skill-sets to Indian engineers in aerospace / defence manufacturing sector, and will also provide large scale business opportunities to hundreds of MSMEs, SMEs and start-ups in the country, and will further enhance our experience and skills," he wrote.
Also, Dassault would significantly contribute to high technology transfer and enhance overall defence manufacturing experience.
But, he clarified that neither his company, nor any other Indian company is manufacturing any parts for the Rafale fighter planes as these 36 aircraft are to be completely manufactured in France.
"The decision of the Government of India to purchase 36 Rafale fighter jets from France was made through an inter-governmental agreement signed between the two countries. Also, all these 36 aircraft are being manufactured in France and will be delivered on a 'fly away' basis from Dassault manufacturing facilities in France to the Indian Air Force and no Indian company has any role to play," he said.
''Dassault choose Reliance Group as its joint venture partner to meet the 'offset' or export obligation component of the deal and this was "an independent agreement between two corporate private sector entities, and Governments had no role to play in this matter," he wrote.
Opposition, however, opted to step up attack on the Narendra Modi government over the Rafale deal on the election eve despite Ambani's letter to Rahul Gandhi explaining the terms of the deal.
Rahul Gandhi has been attacking the government on the deal which he claims was inked at a much higher price than the one the previous UPA regime had negotiated.