Macron brushes off question about Rafael deal; defers to Modi (Lead)
United Nations : French President Emmanuel Macron brushed off questions about the controversial Rafael deal saying he was not in charge when the agreement to buy the fighter jets was made and that he would defer to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the matter.
"I was not in charge at that time but I know that we have very clear rules and this is a government-to-government discussion," he said at a news conference here on Tuesday.
"I just want to refer to what Prime Minister Modi very clearly has said a few days ago and I (don't) have any other comment," he said.
He was replying to a question if France had been asked to use the Reliance group as the Indian partner for the Rafael deal made when Francois Hollande was the President. Macron clearly did not want to get involved in the controversy roiling Indian politics.
He said the Rafael deal was a part of a broader strategic relationship with India and was very important to him.
The Modi government has denied steering Dassault to Reliance, saying that was the French company's decision.
As a part of the offset component of the deal to buy 36 Rafael costing about 7.87 billion Euros (or Rs 58,000 crore), the manufacturer Dassault was required to outsource to India about Rs 30,000 crore of business.
Dassault picked Reliance Defence for that requirement in the agreement.
The Congress and the opposition have accused the government of inflating the cost of the jets and steering the business to a private company, rather to the government-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd,
"This contract is part of a broader framework which is a military and defence relationship between India and France. And this one is very important to me because this is a strategic coalition and not just an industrial relation," he added.
"I would be very clear that it was a government-to-government discussion," he emphasised.
Macron took office last year in May while Modi announced the deal during a visit to France in 2015 and it was finalised the following year.
The controversy began when Hollande told a French publication that India had proposed Reliance Defence as the partner for the deal.