Wednesday 21st April 2021

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  • India PM Narendra Modi avoids probe over France Rafale jet deal


    India’s top court has dismissed demands for an investigation into the country’s decision to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets from French company Dassault.

    There was massive political furore over the deal with India’s opposition parties alleging corruption and demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

    The court order is being seen as a victory for the government in India.

    Both Dassault and the government have consistently denied any wrongdoing.

    The three-judge bench said they could find no reason to “intervene” in the deal, adding that they had “no doubt in the process” that was used to purchase the aircraft.

    The deal sparked controversy in September when Francois Hollande, who was the French president at the time of the deal, told news website Mediaport that Mr Modi’s government had pressured Dassault to partner with India’s Reliance Defence to meet its “offset policy”.

    The “offset” clause in Delhi’s defence procurement rules says that foreign firms need to invest at least 30% of a deal’s worth back in India. It was introduced in India’s Defence Procurement Procedure in 2008 to boost domestic manufacturing.

    Rafale deal: Why French jets are at the centre of an Indian political storm

    India and France sign Rafale fighter jet deal

    As part of the Rafale deal, which was signed in 2016, Dassault agreed to invest 50% of the estimated $8.7bn (£6.6bn) contract in India to manufacture some components of the jet with billionaire Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence.

    In a statement to the press, Mr Ambani said he “welcomes” the decision by the court.

    He has always denied any wrongdoing in the deal and had previously said the joint venture was agreed directly between his firm and Dassault, and that the Indian government was not involved.

    But Rahul Gandhi, the leader of the main opposition Congress party, had alleged that Mr Modi “favoured” an Indian company that is part of the French deal.

    Mr Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had denied the allegation, saying the government signed the deal to meet the Indian Air Force’s combat requirements and had no role in choosing the French manufacturer’s local partner.

    Dassault has also supported the Indian government’s claim.

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