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

A joy forever
24 Feb 2021

A joy forever

Keats’ immortal remains can be found in bookshelves everywhere.
Working children
Updated 23 Feb 2021

Working children

It is the govt's responsibility to provide food and shelter so that parents can send their children to school instead of work.

Editorial

Return of militancy
Updated 24 Feb 2021

Return of militancy

Extremism is a hydra-headed monster that needs a sustained, multifaceted approach to vanquish.
24 Feb 2021

FDI decrease

THE more permanent and non-debt-creating FDI inflows to Pakistan have shrunk by a whopping 27pc to a meagre $1.1bn ...
24 Feb 2021

Myanmar protests

THE protests against Myanmar’s Feb 1 military coup have refused to die down, with hundreds of thousands of people...
Poll storm in NA-75
Updated 23 Feb 2021

Poll storm in NA-75

The PTI and PML-N have worsened the situation by sacrificing facts at the altar of political expediency.
23 Feb 2021

Electric vehicles

THE approval of Pakistan’s first electric vehicle policy towards the end of last year has given rise to an ongoing...
23 Feb 2021

Attack on media

THE attack on the head offices of the Jang Group by charged protesters exhibits the kind of pressure that ...