As the political slugfest over the Rafale deal escalated, French President Emmanuel Macron has distanced himself from the controversy, saying he was not in power when the multi-billion dollar agreement for the 36 fighter jets was signed between India and France. Addressing a press conference on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session here, Macron was asked if the Indian government had at any point told France or Dassault – the French aerospace major – that they had to accept Reliance Defence as the Indian partner for the Rafale deal. India had inked an inter-governmental agreement with France in September last year for procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets at a cost of around Rs 58,000 crore, nearly one- and-half years after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the proposal during a visit to Paris. The delivery of the jets is scheduled to begin from September, 2019. “I will be very clear. It was a government-to-government discussion and I just want to refer to what Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi very clearly said a few days ago,” Macron, who became French President in May last year, told reporters here Tuesday without elaborating. “I don’t have any other comment. I was not in charge at that time and I know that we have very clear rules,” he said in his first comment on the issue. Macron, who assumed the presidency in May last year, emphasised that this is a government-to-government discussion and “this contract is part of a broader framework which is military and defence” coalition between India and France. “This one is very important to me because this is a strategic” coalition and not just an industrial relation. “That is my point. I just want to refer to what PM Modi said on this situation,” he said. While Prime Minister Modi himself has not yet commented on the Rafale controversy directly, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and other senior ministers have asserted that people of India have put a closure to the issue, saying there were no irregularities.