The remarks, made in an interview to ANI news agency, come as a blow to the Congress, whose president Rahul Gandhi has led the attack against the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government on the issue. According to Gandhi, the French manufacturer of the medium multi-role combat aircraft was forced to choose Reliance as its offset partner.
The Dassault Aviation CEO also said that his company’s investments were not being put into Reliance but in the joint venture Dassault Reliance Aerospace Ltd.
“We chose Ambani by ourselves," Trappier said. “We already have 30 partners other than Reliance. The Indian Air Force is supporting the deal because they need the fighter jets for their own defence to be at the top," he said.
“We are not putting any money in Reliance. The money is going into the joint venture. We are supposed to put in this company together some ₹ 800 crore as 50:50," he said.
The Rafale deal is in the eye of a storm with the Congress party accusing the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government of corruption and ordering 36 of the planes at a much higher price than what was negotiated by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government.
The Rafale was shortlisted in 2012 but with India deciding to buy 18 in a fly-away condition and seeking to manufacture 108 in the country, Dassault Aviation entered into talks, which became protracted, with state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) on manufacturing the aircraft in India.
On Monday, the NDA government told the Supreme Court that the contract negotiations could not be concluded then mainly because of lack of agreement between HAL and Dassault Aviation on issues, including the number of man hours needed to manufacture the Rafale in India.
French journal Mediapart on 21 September quoted former president Hollande as saying Dassault Aviation was given no choice but to partner Reliance Group.
Reliance Group companies have sued HT Media Ltd, Mint’s publisher, and nine others in Bombay high court over a 2 October 2014 front-page story that they have disputed. HT Media is contesting the case.