Pakistanis trained on Qatari Rafales, says Indian daily

Published April 12, 2019
In this file photo, a Dassault Rafale combat aircraft performs during the inauguration ceremony of "Aero India 2013" at Yelahanka air force station on the outskirts of Bengaluru, India, in this February 6, 2013. — Reuters/File
In this file photo, a Dassault Rafale combat aircraft performs during the inauguration ceremony of "Aero India 2013" at Yelahanka air force station on the outskirts of Bengaluru, India, in this February 6, 2013. — Reuters/File

NEW DELHI: A fresh controversy has erupted over India’s Rafale warplanes deal with France, after Kolkata’s Telegraph newspaper broached on Thursday the possibility of Pakistani pilots having trained on similar planes sold to Qatar.

In a follow up to the news item, NDTV checked up with the French embassy about the claim, which denied that Pakistani pilots had been trained to fly the Rafale planes.

The French ‘clarification’ came after ainonline.com, described by NDTV as an independent media firm which focusses on the aviation sector reported that “the first batch of pilots trained for Qatar in November 2017 were Pakistani exchange officers.”

According to Jon Lake, the author of the piece, “Escadron de Chasse 04.030 was established at Mont-de-Marsan as the Qatar Rafale Squadron on Oct 1, 2017,” NDTV said.

Referring to the ainonline.com story, Ambassador Alexandre Ziegler was quoted as slamming the report as false. “I can confirm that it is fake news.” French government sources have told NDTV that they have cross-checked details of this article.

Qatar took delivery of its first Rafale at Dassault’s Merignac facility on February 6 this year. In a press statement, Dassault had said Qatar had signed up for 24 Rafale fighters in May 2015.

In December 2017, it ordered an additional 12 fighters. The deal for the first 24 fighters is valued at euro 6.3 billion.

NDTV said Pakistani military personnel have been deputed to operate with the armed forces of several Middle Eastern countries for decades.

In January 2018, there were reports the visit of the Commander of the Qatar Emiri Air Force to Pakistan Air Force Headquarters in Islamabad. Pakistan’s Air Chief reportedly “offered support and cooperation in the field of aviation and military training” to his counterpart, NDTV said.

India’s deal with France to buy the Rafale from Dassault Aviation has been mired in controversy over alleged wrongdoings and crony capitalism. The opposition alleges the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi favoured industrialist Anil Ambani’s rookie firm Reliance Defence bag an offset contract with Dassault Aviation.

Read: India signs $8.8bn deal to buy 36 French Rafale fighter jets

On Friday, the Supreme Court also outright rejected the Modi government’s argument that classified documents accessed by the media on the Rafale fighter jet deal can’t be evidence. The court said it will examine the secret documents while considering petitions asking for a review of its order giving the government a clean chit on the deal that the opposition alleges was corrupt.

The Modi government has been saying the sensitive information could be used by the country’s rivals — a reference to Pakistan.

The Telegraph reported that Indian defence ministry source said he was not aware of the online report.

Published in Dawn, April 12th, 2019

Opinion

Editorial

Road to perdition
Updated 01 Feb, 2023

Road to perdition

This is also the time of reckoning for those who sowed the seeds of a disastrous policy against militants.
Transport tragedies
01 Feb, 2023

Transport tragedies

TWO tragedies over the weekend illustrate the weak protocols governing the safety of transport in Pakistan. In fact,...
Disqualifying Jam Awais
01 Feb, 2023

Disqualifying Jam Awais

IT appears that there may be some kind of small punishment after all for PPP lawmaker Jam Awais, who was pardoned ...
Police Lines bombing
Updated 31 Jan, 2023

Police Lines bombing

Where the menace of terrorism is concerned, the government and opposition need to close ranks and put up a united front.
Oil price hike
31 Jan, 2023

Oil price hike

THE record single-day increase in petrol prices, preceded by massive currency depreciation, signifies the ...
Babar Azam’s award
31 Jan, 2023

Babar Azam’s award

BABAR Azam might not have lifted many trophies as Pakistan’s all-format captain in the last year but the star...