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After Rahul’s ‘Cover up’ Charge Against Defence Minister’s France Visit, Nirmala Sitharaman Explains

New Delhi: After Rahul Gandhi termed Defence Minister Nirmala Sithatraman’s three-day visit to France as a “cover-up” by the government in the Rafale deal, the minister, refuting allegations, insisted that the government had no part in the selection of Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence as a joint venture in the deal.

Speaking at a briefing in Paris, Nirmala Sitharaman said they had no idea the jets’ builder, Dassault Aviation, would team up with Reliance Group, run by Anil Ambani.

“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 made by the Congress back home, the minister adopted a more combative tone.

“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.

Answering questions about her visit, Sitharaman said, “As for the visit to Dassault, it is an invitation and also I’m a buyer, so I would definitely go and see,” added Sitharaman. She is expected to visit the Dassault unit where Rafale fighter jets are being manufactured for India.

Sitharaman’s visit comes nearly three weeks after former French President Francois Hollande was quoted by French publication ‘Mediapart’ as saying that Indian government proposed the name of Reliance to partner with Dassault Aviation for the Rafale deal.

On Thursday, Congress president Rahul Gandhi referring to the Rafale deal said more questions will be raised about other contracts too.

In another explosive investigative report, French publication ‘Mediapart’ claimed Dassault Aviation signing Reliance Defence was “imperative and mandatory” to bag the Rafale jets contract.

Rafale is a twin-engine medium multi-role combat aircraft manufactured by Dassault Aviation, a French firm.

The Congress has alleged corruption in the purchase of 30 fighter jets finalised by the Narendra Modi government and has been seeking an investigation by a Joint Parliamentary Committee.

| Edited by: Ashutosh Tripathi

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