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Documents featured in a French aviation blog raise more questions about Dassault Aviation’s and Modi government’s assertions that the choice of Reliance for offset contract was made freely by the company.

Images of two trade union documents put up by the French blog Portail Aviation, reported NDTV, are of documents published by two unions of Rafale-maker Dassault – the CFDT and CGT. In the documents, reportedly minutes of a meeting held on May 11 2017, number 2 of Dassault Aviation, Loik Segalenn, said that a contract with Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence was ‘obligatory’ if Dassault wanted to win the Rafale deal.

The CGT statement, as translated by NDTV, says, “…a complete presentation of ‘Make in India’ with the creation of the enterprise ‘Dassault Reliance Aerospace’ at Nagpur was done for us. According to Mr (Loik) Segalen it was imperative and obligatory for Dassault Aviation to accept this ‘contrepartie’ in order to obtain the export contract Rafale India.”

The NDTV said the French word ‘contrepartie’ can mean ‘compensation’ or could have the negative sense of a ‘trade off’.

Another translation of the text by Times Now, reads: “A complete presentation of the Make in India creation of the firm Dassault Reliance Aerospace Nagpur has been done. According to Mr Segalenn, it was imperative and obligatory for Dassault-Aviation to accept this counterpart in order to obtain the Rafale India export contract.”

Here ‘contrepartie’ means ‘counterpart’, which is how Google translates it as.

According to the article on Portail Aviation, the document is the “union summary of a meeting (CEC, mandatory under French law), presenting the effects of the ‘offsets’ imposed on the defence contract (50% of counterparties) and the ‘Make in India’ policy.”

The second union (CFDT’s) statement talks about ‘Make in India’ being “the inevitable consequence” of the deal “imposed” by India, and says a joint venture with Reliance was created to attain this objective.

The CFDT’s document was mentioned earlier in a report by the French publication Mediapart just after former French President Francois Hollande’s explosive statement that France had no choice when it came to selecting Anil Ambani and his newly formed company as offset partner for Dassault. According to Mediapart, an internal document of Dassault confirmed Hollande’s statement.

Dassault denied the allegation, saying the reference in the document was to the obligation to make offset investments in India and not the compulsion to get into a joint venture with Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence.

The documents are clearly not talking only about the offset obligation but also about the joint venture with Reliance. Whether the Reliance partnership was mandatory are among the questions being raised in media as well as by the opposition in India.

Rahul Gandhi led Opposition has been attacking the Centre for giving preference to Reliance over state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). Gandhi also recently met HAL employees in Bengaluru.

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