New Delhi: As the Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the Modi government to provide details of the steps taken in the decision making process that led to closing the Rafale deal with France, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman headed to France on a three-day visit starting Thursday that comes in the backdrop of a fresh new controversy over the purchase of 36 Rafale jets with documents claiming that Dassault had no choice but to pick Anil Ambani as their offset partner.

French newspaper, Mediapart went public with an internal document of Dassault Aviation, the makers of the Rafale fighters which shows the aerospace major picked Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence as the offset partner in India as it was “mandatory” for the 36 jet deal, according to a report by French investigative journal.

The Mediapart article says the document shows a top Dassault official had explained to its staff that the joint venture was a ‘counterpart’, ‘imperative and mandatory’ to win the Rs 59,000 crore Rafale deal.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi targeted PM Modi over “corruption” in the Rafale deal repeating the charge that Anil Ambani’s Reliance group benefited from a related offset contract. Speaking at a public meeting in Bikaner in poll-bound Rajasthan, Mr Gandhi accused the Modi government of ‘manipulating’ the process of the Rafale agreement by “punishing” bureaucrats who raised objections to the deal and rewarding “obliging officials”.

Raising questions on Defence Minister Sitharaman’s France visit, Mr Gandhi alleged that “work has begun to justify the prime minister’s decision to buy the Rafale aircraft from French aerospace major Dassault Aviation”.

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