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Rafale row: Nirmala Sitharaman accuses Francois Hollande of making claims as his associate is facing charges

Chennai: Union defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday said former French president Francois Hollande's claims on the Rafale deal have come at a time when he himself was facing allegations that his partner had received "some funds for some purpose."

She was apparently referring to reports which suggested that Anil Ambani group firm Reliance Entertainment had signed a pact to finance a film by French actress-producer Julie Gayet, partner of Francois Hollande, in a quid pro quo deal for getting the Rafale offset contract.

 Rafale row: Nirmala Sitharaman accuses Francois Hollande of making claims as his associate is facing charges

File image of Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. AFP

Reliance Entertainment has refuted the allegations, saying that no payments were made to her. The reports had suggested that Reliance Entertainment signed the pact with Gayet's company ahead of Hollande's 2016 India visit and India signing a pact to acquire 36 Rafale fighter aircraft under a government-to-government deal.

Speaking to reporters at the Officers Training Academy, the defence minister said, "... here was the former president of France who himself is facing an allegation of his associate having received some funds for some purpose. It (allegation) may be true or may not be true. But in such a situation, the former president saying this..."

On 21 September, French media report quoted Hollande as purportedly saying that the Indian government proposed Reliance Defence as partner for Dassault Aviation in the Rs 58,000 crore Rafale jet fighter deal and France did not have a choice.

The defence minister also took a swipe at Congress president Rahul Gandhi's 30 August tweet, saying he seemed to be predicting Hollande's actions well in advance. " is done well in advance. It is very interesting," she said.

On 30 August, Gandhi tweeted "Globalised corruption. This Rafale aircraft really does fly far and fast! It's also going to drop some big bunker buster bombs in the next couple of weeks. Modi ji please tell Anil, there is a big problem in France."

To a question on much-delayed S-400 deal with Russia, Sitharaman said the deal was almost at a stage where it could be finalised. Asked if the 'surgical strike' across the border, the second anniversary of which is being observed, has deterred intrusions, she said a lot of them were being eliminated at the border itself and they were not allowed to come in.
"I would believe that action of this kind would deter Pakistan in training and sending terrorists," she said.

On reports that a defence ministry official had raised objections on-record to the Rafale deal before it was signed in 2016, Sitharaman said various committees hold discussions for every procurement. "During talks every opinion is recorded, differential opinions are also recorded. But after that, when the decision has to be taken, all of them have to come on the same page and
take a call," she said.

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Updated Date: Sep 30, 2018 18:27:41 IST