France rejects Rahul's Rafale remarks, but Congress boss remains defiant

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France rejects Rahul's Rafale remarks, but Congress boss remains defiant

France's foreign ministry pointed to a 2008 agreement which binds New Delhi and Paris to protect "classified information" provided by either partner, as well as comments made by President Emmanuel Macron during an India Today magazine interview.

The French government on Friday responded to Rahul Gandhi's accusation, made in Parliament, that Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman lied to the nation about the Rafale deal. He said she did so under pressure from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Gandhi said Sitharaman cited a secrecy clause while declining to share information on Rafale jet prices. But he said French president Emmanuel Macron himself had told him no such clause existed.

The Quai d'Orsay, the seat of France's foreign ministry, pointed to a 2008 agreement which binds New Delhi and Paris to protect "classified information" provided by either partner, as well as comments made by Emmanuel Macron during an India Today magazine interview.

"We have noted the statement of Mr Rahul Gandhi before the Indian Parliament. France and India concluded in 2008 a security agreement, which legally binds the two states to protect the classified information provided by the partner, that could impact security and operational capabilities of the defence equipment of India or France," the ministry said.

"These provisions naturally apply to the IGA concluded on 23 September 2016 on the acquisition of 36 Rafale aircraft and their weapons."

"As the President of the French Republic indicated publicly in an interview given to India Today on 9th March 2018, "In India and in France, when a deal is very sensitive, we cant reveal all details"," it added.

Rahul Gandhi later told the news agency ANI: "Let them deny it if they want. He (Macron) said that before me. I was there, Anand Sharma and Dr Manmohan Singh were also there."

The question the French ministry received

What Macron told India Today

Both the BJP and the Congress pointed to excerpt from the India Today interview to support their positions, but focused on different parts of it.

Responding to Rahul Gandhi in Parliament, Sitharaman also cited the article, explaining that Macron said the price of the jets can't be revealed, and that what he told an MP wasn't relevant.

She also said the secrecy clause with France was signed by AK Anthony, a United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government defence minister, in 2008.

VIDEO | Watch Rahul Gandhi accuse the Modi government of lying to the nation