New Delhi: Further cornering the government in Rafale row, reports today say that about fortnight before PM Modi announced the deal, Businessman Anil Ambani had met with French defence officials in the fourth week of March, 2015.
Anil Ambani visited then French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian’s office in Paris, reported Indian Express.
Officials in attendance included Le Drian’s special advisor Jean-Claude Mallet; his industry advisor, Christophe Salomon; and his technical advisor for industrial affairs, Geoffrey Bouquot.
Christophe Salomon dubbed the meeting to a top official of a European defence company as “confidential and planned as you can imagine with very short notice”.
Ambani is said to have hinted of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) “in preparation and the intention to sign during the PM visit”, and expressed his wish to work with Airbus Helicopters on both commercial and defence helicopters.
When Ambani visited the French Defence Minister’s office, it was known that Prime Minister Modi would make an official visit to France from April 9-11, 2015, Indian Express report say.
Later, Ambani was in PM’s delegation during the visit where PM Modi and then French President Francois Hollande jointly announced the deal for 36 Rafale aircraft.
On March 28, 2015, Reliance Defence was incorporated. On April 8, 2015, the then Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar, prior to the PM’s visit told media:
“In terms of Rafale, my understanding is that there are discussions underway between the French company, our Ministry of Defence, the HAL which is involved in this. These are ongoing discussions. These are very technical, detailed discussions. We do not mix up leadership level visits with deep details of ongoing defence contracts. That is on a different track. A leadership visit usually looks at big picture issues even in the security field,”
Public sector HAL, although it is a licensed manufacturer of 108 Rafale aircraft, has no role in the new deal.
Thanks, Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group is the “key partner” for Dassault Aviation who manufactures the aircraft.
Alongside, Dassault and Reliance have also formed a joint venture company, Dassault Reliance Aerospace Limited.