A French media publication, Mediapart has claimed that “It was imperative and mandatory for Dassault Aviation to accept Reliance as the counterpart in order to get the contract.” The report states that Dassault’s deal with Reliance was an essential and ‘imperative’ part of the Rafale deal implying that if Dassault had refused to make Reliance an offset partner, the deal could not have gone through. The report comes amidst an ongoing row between the government and the opposition regarding the purchase of 36 Rafale aircrafts from Dassault Aviation. The opposition could not find any beneficiary on the part of the government but it accused that the deal benefitted Anil Ambani led Reliance group. According to the terms of the Rafale deal, Dassault had to offset 50 percent of the value of purchase in India. To make this investment, Dassault chose many companies including Dassault Reliance Aerospace Limited (DRAL) which is a joint venture between Anil Ambani led Reliance group and Dassault aviation.
However, the Mediapart report is confusing the essentiality of the offset terms which is, and has been, an imperative part of any defense deal with a clear ‘trade off’ on Dassault’s partner on the offset contract.
As per the deal, Dassault is free to choose offset partners. It chose more than 70 companies including Mahindra, HAL and Reliance. However, opposition made the Dassault’s deal with Reliance an issue and accused the Modi government for crony-capitalism despite the fact no beneficiary from the deal has been found in the government yet. The whole accusation is based on a blatant lie that the government helped Reliance to sign the deal with Dassault. If the government has done this there must be a beneficiary of the deal in the government. But the opposition and some section of media are spreading the lie of crony capitalism to create anti-incumbency in the absence of any real issue.
The report by Mediapart is based on a presentation made by Deputy CEO Loïk Segalen of Dassault Aviation to staff representatives of Dassault Reliance Aerospace joint venture in Nagpur in May 2017. First of all, the media organization has not put original documents it claims to have in public sphere. It is clearly evident in the claims of the publication that the ‘imperative’ part of the deal applies only to offset contracts and not on the choice of the offset partner, in this case, Reliance. Until and unless a media organization gets the original documents of the deal and cross verify it, they should not publish such sensational stories. This is against journalistic ethics and part of yellow journalism. Mediapart is an online investigative and ‘opinion’ journal founded by Edwy Plenel, former editor in chief of Le Monde.
Furthermore, Dassault Aviation has published clarifications on offset contracts in India. The company clearly stated that it was free to choose offset partners and the government had no involvement in this process. Clear terms of the deal and transparent process of selecting offset partners are being deliberately obfuscated through manipulative, sensational and confusing claims to malign the government. Meanwhile, the Indian media has lapped up the confusing, misleading Mediapart story as some sort of gospel truth and has decided to run with it. At best, the Mediapart story on Rafale deal is a clear example of shoddy omission and at worst, a deliberate manipulation with a clear agenda of left-leaning media house.