PARIS: In the midst of a massive controversy over the Rafale deal, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday held wide-ranging talks with her French counterpart Florence Parly on ways to deepen strategic and defence cooperation between the two countries. Sitharaman’s visit to France came in the backdrop of a huge controversy over the procurement of 36 Rafale jets from French aerospace major Dassault Aviation. In a report Wednesday, French publication Mediapart said Dassault Aviation, the manufacturer of Rafale, had to choose Ambani’s firm Reliance Defence as its offsets partner in India as a trade-off for getting the deal. In April, the Indian Air Force started the process to acquire a fleet of 114 fighter jets and Dassault Aviation has emerged as one of the key contenders for the contract. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced the procurement of a batch of 36 Rafale jets after talks with the then French President Hollande on April 10, 2015 in Paris.
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