Amid Cover-Up Allegations, Defence Minister Explains Rafale Factory Visit

In France for a three-day visit, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today refuted Congress allegations that she has gone on a cover-up exercise and insisted that the government had no part in the selection of Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence as a joint venture partner in the Rafale deal. “It is a government to government agreement between the French and Indian governments and there is no name mentioned and this offset obligation maybe mandatory, but the names of the company are not mandatory for me,” the minister told NDTV in Paris. The Congress allegations about irregularities in the deal had got sharper after a French media report yesterday said the aerospace major had to select Anil Ambani’s company for the joint venture as a “mandatory” trade-off to win the 59,000-crore deal. Lending support to the claims initially made by former French president Francois Hollande, Mediapart reported that a Dassault officer, Loik Segalan, had explained to his staff at a presentation last year that the joint venture with Reliance Defence was “imperative and obligatory”. The Congress has been alleging massive irregularities in the 36-aircraft deal, saying the government was procuring each aircraft at a cost of over Rs.

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