NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Saturday that India would have achieved much more if the country had the possession of French-made Rafale aircraft, and accused the opposition of letting down the nation.
The Rafale deal was agreed by the Manmohan Singh government with France, but Mr Modi changed its terms, which the opposition says was aimed to benefit a businessman close to the prime minister.
“The country has felt the shortage of Rafale. Today, India is speaking in one voice and saying what all could have happened if we had Rafale. Ego politics over the Rafale deal has harmed the nation,” the prime minister said at the India Today Conclave 2019 in Delhi.
It was not clear if the remarks were a critique of the Indian Air Force’s preparedness in the recent encounter with Pakistan, but reports noted that they came shortly after what India claims to have been a bombing raid by Mirage-2000 planes on Balakot in Pakistan while Islamabad disputes the version.
Indian Express noted that Mr Modi’s remarks came days after India and Pakistan were engaged in an aerial confrontation in Jammu and Kashmir. The report said the air skirmish saw both nuclear-armed countries downing a fighter jet each, but there has been no evidence from India of a Pakistan plane being shot down. Taking of the opposition over the issue of the alleged air strikes on terror camps in Balakot, the prime minister said that while the entire world stood behind India in its fight against terror, “some parties” raised questions over it.
“One of the challenges before the country is some people opposing their own country. When the entire nation today is standing with the armed forces, some parties are casting doubts on them,” Mr Modi told the gathering.
Hitting out at his detractors, Mr Modi said the opposition is free to criticise him and his policies but their anti-Modi tirade should not help “terrorists like JeM chief Masood Azhar and JuD head Hafiz Saeed”. He said: “In your stubborn desire to oppose Modi, see that you don’t end up strengthening terrorists like Masood Azhar and Hafiz Saeed.”
“These are the parties whose statements and articles are being used by Pakistan against India. In their fixation with criticising Modi, they are opposing the country and comprising its interests,” he added.
Published in Dawn, March 3rd, 2019