French aircraft maker Dassault Aviation on Friday said the choice of going with Anil Ambani's Reliance Defence for a partnership to manufacture parts for its Rafale aircraft was its own.
In an exclusive chat with CNBC-TV18 in Paris, Dassault CEO Éric Trappier said, "Choice of going with Reliance was ours... Thought Reliance was the best bet who could deliver what we wanted."
India signed a deal with Dassault in 2016
for the transfer of 36 Rafale jets in flyaway condition but the deal has since faced criticism from opposition parties who allege wrongdoing in one of the biggest defense deals India has seen in recent times.
The Paris-based Dassault Aviation is a designer and builder of the Rafale, a twin- engine multirole fighter that performs all types of combat missions for both air forces and naval air arms.
With regards to the discussions with state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Trappier said they "were in active discussion with both Reliance Defence and HAL" and that "HAL was aware of the negotiations with Reliance Defence".
As per the 2012 pact, HAL was the main partner for making components but when the Rafale deal was struck in 2015, HAL was shut out, media reports have suggested.
Trappier, however, said that he was ready to hold discussions with HAL for future projects. He said, "We had discussions with government of India and had a detailed work-share with HAL. And HAL, I have to say has always been a good partner with Dassault and myself – I know HAL very well. I worked with HAL from 1990. So I have great respect for this company."
Talking about the offset obligations, Trappier said, "Reliance Defence is only one of the 30 offset partners in India currently." The company is in talks with 70 other companies to make up rest of the offset obligations.
Under an offset policy, foreign companies selling goods to the Indian government or state-run firms are made to source part of the supplies locally.
"10 percent of the 40 percent offset obligation would come to DRAL (Dassault Reliance Aerospace Limited)," said Trappier.
DRAL, created in February 2017, is a joint venture between Dassault Aviation and Reliance Defence.
DRAL has a planned capital expenditure of Rs 850 crore and Dassault can invest up to half of total capex required, said Trappier.