Rafale deal: Days before announcement, Anil Ambani met French Defence officials, says report

A fortnight before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to France, Anil Ambani of Reliance Defence had reportedly met top French Defence Ministry officials in March 2015 in Paris

NH Web Desk

Anil Ambani of Reliance Defence had visited the then French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian’s office in Paris in March 2015, just two weeks prior to Modi government’s announcement of the deal for procurement of 36 fighter jets, a report in a national daily has made yet another revelation over controversial Rafale jet deal.

The meeting was attended by Le Drian’s special advisor Jean-Claude Mallet; his industry advisor, Christophe Salomon; and his technical advisor for industrial affairs, Geoffrey Bouquot, The Indian Express reported on Tuesday.

Salomon described the meeting to a top official of a European defence company as “confidential and planned as you can imagine with very short notice,” the report added.

Pertinently, when Ambani visited France to meet Le Drian’s officials, it was known to everyone that PM Modi will fly to France on an official trip between April 9 and 11. When PM Modi left for France, Anil Ambani was also a part of the delegation that he was leading. It was during this visit, the deal for 36 Rafale fighter jets was announced by PM Modi and then French President Francois Hollande in a joint statement.

During the meeting, The Indian Express report has stated that Ambani had expressed desire to work with Airbus Helicopters on both commercial and defence helicopters. He is also said to have mentioned an MoU “in preparation and the intention to sign during PM Modi’s visit”. The revelation was made by an official who was briefed on the meeting.

Dassault Aviation, the makers of Rafale, had chosen Reliance Defence as its partner to fulfil offset obligations of the deal. However, Modi government has been maintaining it did not have any role in selection of the offset partner.

Previously, the state-run HAL was the licensed manufacturer of 108 aircraft in the contract. But after fresh negotiations, Reliance Defence replaced the HAL.

The original report in The Indian Express can be read here.

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