NEW DELHI: A new disagreement has exploded over India’s Rafale warplanes deal with France, after Kolkata’s Telegraphnewspaper 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 explanation came after ainonline.com, pronounced by NDTV as an independent media firm which focuses on the aviation sector reported that the first batch of pilots trained for Qatar in November 2017 were Pakistani exchange officers.
As per 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.
Mentioning 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.
2017 In December, it was well-ordered an additional 12 fighters. The deal for the first 24 fighters is valued at euro 6.3 billion.
The NDTV said Pakistani military personnel have been deputed to operate with the armed forces of several Middle Eastern countries for decades.
2018 In January, 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 delayed in controversy over unproven wrongdoings and crony capitalism. The opposition alleges the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi favored industrialist Anil Ambani’s rookie firm Reliance Defence bag an offset contract with Dassault Aviation.
On Friday, the Supreme Court also outright disallowed 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 inspect 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 asserts 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 defense ministry source said he was not aware of the online report.