The chief of Dassault Aviation, the French manufacturer contracted to deliver 36 fighter jets to the Indian Air Force, hit out at Rahul Gandhi for calling him a liar.
“I don’t lie,” said Eric Trappier, the CEO of Dassault Aviation. “In my position as CEO, you don’t lie.”
Trappier was responding to Gandhi’s accusation that he was lying about the Rafale deal to protect Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Trappier also spoke about the controversial decision to make of Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence an offset partner and about the Congress’s claim that the Modi government was overpaying for the Rafale jets.
Moments after Trappier spoke out in his interview (watch full interview here) to news agency ANI, the Congress reacted, calling the Dassault CEO a “co-accused” whose statements hold no value.
Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala called the interview “dictated” and, “Manufactured lies can not suppress the Rafale scam.”
“First rule of Law – Mutual Beneficiaries & Co-accused’s statements hold no value. Second Rule: Beneficiaries & Accused can’t be Judge in their own case. Truth has a way of coming out,” Surjewala also tweeted.
The Rafale deal has run into controversy in India; the Congress has alleged that businessman Anil Ambani benefitted unduly from it, and that the Narendra Modi government was overpaying for the fighter jets..
The Rafale controversy is centered on two deals. One was signed by the Modi government as an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) between India and France. The other was being negotiated by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government during the Manmohan Singh years.
The UPA deal was for a total of 126 aircraft. Of these, 18 Rafale jets would have been sold off the shelf, while the others would have been manufactured in India by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
That deal fell through. Prime Minister Modi’s National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, which came to power in 2014, chose to sign an agreement with the French government to simply buy 36 Rafale jets from Dassault.
These jets will be manufactured by Dassault in France. The deal also mandates that Dassault must make investments in India as part of an “offset” arrangement.
One of the partners chosen by Dassault to fulfil these offset obligations is Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence. This has become controversial.
The Congress has alleged that Ambani’s involvement is an example of crony capitalism. It has also claimed that the Modi government’s deal for 36 aircraft is more expensive than the UPA one on a per-aircraft basis.
TRAPPIER ON PRICE
Dassault CEO Eric Trappier, in an interview to news agency ANI, rebutted the Congress’s claim on price by saying that the price of the Rafale in a “flyaway” condition is less expensive in the NDA deal than in the UPA deal.
Trappier said, “Price of 36 [aircraft] was exactly the same when you compare with 18 flyaway. 36 is the double of 18, so as far as I was concerned, it should have been double the price. But because it was government to government, there was some negotiation, I had to decrease [the] price by 9%. The price of Rafale in flyaway condition is less expensive in the 36 contract than the 126 contract.”
Trappier did not speak about the aircraft that would have been manufactured in India under the UPA deal and whether they might have changed the price equation.
THE AMBANI CONNECTION
Trappier told ANI that Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence was just one several companies Dassault was partnering with to carry out its offset obligations.
“We have already settled work and agreement with 30 companies, which represents 40% of total offset obligation as per contract. Reliance is 10% out of the 40, while rest 30% is a direct agreement between these companies and Dassault,” Trappier told ANI.
Trappier also said Dassault is not investing in Reliance Defence, but is setting up a joint venture that will have both the companies make matching investments. “We are supposed to put in this company together about Rs 800 crore as 50:50 [sic],” Trappier said.