Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday said she could not comment on the offset partners chosen by Dassault Aviation, the maker of Rafale jets, on the basis of media reports as the company was yet to officially inform the government about its local partners.
“In spite of all that is reported in the media, that they (Dassault Aviation) are going with this or going with that or we do not know this or that… I can officially state it only when they officially come and claim it from me. Till then I can’t respond on the basis of the media reports that offset is being fulfilled by this company or that company,” Sitharaman said in her reply to a debate on procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets from French company Dassault Aviation.
Her response came after Congress President Rahul Gandhi sought a clarification from the Defence Minister in the House as to why the Rs 30,000 crore worth of offset contract was given to Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence.
“The government of India does not interfere in the commercial decisions of the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs). The government does not put it as a part of the inter-governmental agreement at all as to who they (OEM) should go with, who they should not. They will decide it and not the government,” she added.
The Congress has alleged the Narendra Modi government indulged in crony capitalism by favouring Modi’s “friend” Anil Ambani with the offset contract and ignoring the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.
However, Sitharaman in her reply refuted the allegations, saying the government had no role or knowledge of who all were going to be Dassault’s Indian offset partners.
“I would want to underline that the share of Dassault Aviation in the total offsets is 19.9 per cent only. There will be many Indian offset partners of Dassault Aviation under many avenues,” she said.
“As per the offset contract, the vendor is required to confirm the details of Indian offset partners, or products that they are buying, either at the time of seeking offset credits or one year prior to the discharge of the offset obligation.
“The annual offset implementation schedule will commence from October 2019. The vendor is yet to submit a formal proposal indicating details of Indian offset partners and products for offset discharge,” she said.
The Minister said that the offset contracts in the Rafale agreement were governed by the offset guidelines of the Defence Procurement Policy of 2013, and the offset limit has been fixed at 50 per cent, which is quite high.