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France Fears Strained Ties With India After Hollande Fans Controversy Over Rafale Deal

The Narendra Modi government agreed to buy 36 Rafale jets from Dassault, which announced afterwards it was partnering for the project with Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence.

AFP

Updated:September 23, 2018, 11:54 PM IST
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France Fears Strained Ties With India After Hollande Fans Controversy Over Rafale Deal
French President Emmanuel Macron with PM Narendra Modi in Paris. (File image: AP)
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Paris: The French government said on Sunday it feared damage to its relations with India after former president Francois Hollande stirred controversy over the Rafale deal.

Hollande, who left office in May last year, said on Friday during a trip to India that French jet manufacturer Dassault Aviation had been given no choice about its local partner in a 2016 deal with the Indian administration.

The Narendra Modi government agreed to buy 36 Rafale jets from Dassault, which announced afterwards it was partnering for the project with Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence.

Hollande's announcement that Dassault "did not have a say in it" added fuel to claims from Congress that the Modi government had somehow influenced the decision to choose Ambani’s firm.

"I find these remarks made overseas, which concern important international relations between France and India, do not help anyone and above all do not help France," junior foreign minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne said on Sunday about Hollande.

"Because one is no longer in office, causing damage to a strategic partnership between India and France by making remarks that clearly cause controversy in India is really not appropriate," he said in an interview on Radio J.

Hollande made the comments to defend himself from accusations of a conflict of interest because Ambani's Reliance conglomerate had partially financed a film produced by his girlfriend, Julie Gayet, in 2016.

The choice of Reliance for a highly strategic contract to upgrade India's ageing fleet of fighter jets had caused surprise at the time because the group had no previous experience in the aeronautics industry.

Hollande's comments gave fresh ammunition to the opposition to take on the NDA government.
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