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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Inde. Scandale Autour De La Vente De 36 RAFALE Par La France

by Lina Sankari

Scandal surrounding the sale of 36 French fighter jets to India.

Translated Sunday 21 October 2018, by Eoin Downey

The Indian National Congress Party is accusing the government of embezzlement and corruption. The claims are being made with regards to an agreement made between the Indian Government and Dassault Aviation. The aircraft manufacturer put together a joint-venture with The Reliance Defense, whose CEO is a close friend of the Indian Prime Minister.

French expertise travels well.

This time, it is not Paris providing its professional assistance in maintaining order as it did to Governor Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali during the Tunisian revolution. Today, it is the cult of secrecy that has the wind in its sails. However, the President of the Indian National Congress party, Rahul Gandhi, is accusing the government of embezzlement and corruption in the purchase agreement of the French fighter jets in 2016.

Following lengthy negotiations, New Delhi bought 36 French combat planes for 7.89 billion euros. An excessively high amount, according to Indian opposition. The congress party however remembers that when they were in power before 2014, the price for each jet was estimated at 68.2 million euros.

Congress thereby suspects the executive of having ‘violated the purchasing procedures of the Ministry of Defence’ and ‘ having neglected the interests’ of the national conglomerate, Hindustan Aeronautics, for the benefit of the French group Dassault Aviation and the Reliance Defense. The CEO of the French group, Anil Ambani is known to be close to the nationalist prime minister Narendra Modi. Just ten days after finalising the deal, Dassault Aviation established a joint-venture with The Reliance Defence to manufacture part of the aircraft in India. Credit for the increase of national production would then be given to the “Made in India” campaign.

According to the French Embassy, the deal had been concluded “in total transparency”

According to the main opposition, this coalition was formed without consulting concerned ministers. Consequently, Manohar Parrikar, the then Minister of Defence was fishing in Goa with businessman Anil Ambani. The current head of the armed forces Nirmala Sitharaman was happy to respond that such disputes were a “poor service” depiction of the armed forces. She is accusing the congress party of not having concluded the contract when it was in power, thus having placed the security of the nation at risk. No explanation on the conditions of the sale was supplied by the party.

In November, while the scandal was beginning to unfold, the French ambassador in Delhi reacted by “(rejecting) these allegations of political orders”, guaranteeing that the sale of the jets was conducted “in total transparency”. Since then, France and India are refusing to communicate the details of this transaction, assuring the two which are linked by the secret clauses of the contract. But on Friday, Rahul Gandhi assured the Lok Sabha, the lower house of Indian Parliament, that he will meet with President Macron when he visits India in March. The latter would “say frankly to him that there was no secret pact between the French and Indian Governments”.

Paris has since been ordered to explain itself. During a press briefing on Friday, Quai d’Orsay responded that “there was a security agreement between France and India which concluded in 2008”. The agreement “requires both countries to protect classified information that could impact on the security and operational capacities of India and France.” According to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, these arrangements would apply to the selling of the 36 jets.

In an interview given to India Today in March, Emmanuel Macron assured that it was not “desirable” to communicate the details of the sale when there are “extremely sensitive commercial interests” at stake. President Macron clarified however that France would not see any objection to the actions of its Indian partner as it hopes to avoid a political crisis occurring just one year before the legislation date of spring 2019. Providing of course, these revelations don’t plunge the Indian Prime Minister into an uncomfortable situation….

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