As India awaits the arrival of its first Rafale fighter jet in September this year, a worrying bit of news has caused consternation – that Pakistani pilots were trained to fly the ace French fighter jets for Qatar.
On February 6 this year, Qatar got delivery of its first Rafale fighter jet in a grand ceremony attended by the Qatari Deputy Prime Minister among other senior officials. The Gulf country signed a euro 6.3 billion agreement for the purchase of 24 Rafales in May 2015 and inked an agreement for a dozen more aircraft in December 2017.
Reporting on the event, Aviation International News also mentioned the training aspects of the aircraft. Tucked away in the report was a telling sentence: “The first batch of pilots trained for Qatar in November 2017 were Pakistani exchange officers.”
The news was displayed on Pakistani Defence website on Wednesday and was immediately picked up by journalists and social media users in India.
Dr Jitendra Awhad, a legislator of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), taking to twitter said the planes will be flown by Pakistani pilots. He said while Prime Minister Narendra Modi was trying to keep the Rafale contract price a “top secret” Qatar had got the planes at one-third the price India has bought it.
First Rafale Handed Over to Qatar .... And the will be flown by pakistani pilots #modi wanted to keep the #Rafale a top secret and #Qatar buys #Rafale at 1/3 of indian price— Dr.Jitendra Awhad (@Awhadspeaks) April 10, 2019
India probably getting a gold studded cockpit so the cost increased https://t.co/nov3pjQVl1
So this article says the first pilots trained on Qatar's just delivered Rafale were Pakistani exchange pilots. Pak pilots have operated jets in Middle Eastern air forces for decades. This is bad news for the @IAF_MCC as it inducts its first Rafales.https://t.co/3GV9kvJ5zS— Vishnu Som (@VishnuNDTV) April 10, 2019
The opposition has accused the Modi government of corruption in the purchase of 36 Rafale fighters for the Indian Air Force that India inked with the French in 2016 at an estimated cost of over $9.2 billion. The opposition has accused the government of tweaking the contract to get Reliance Defence Ltd of Anil Ambani to be the Indian ‘offset’ partner of the French makers Dassault Aviation. The government had denied the accusation.
After the February 26 Balakot airstrike by Indian Air Force, PM Modi, alluding to the Opposition’s attack, said that if India had the Rafale jets then the results of the Indian intervention could have been far better.
Attacking the Congress which has been campaigning against the Modi government on the Rafale deal, Modi said "the country is feeling the absence of Rafale. If there was Rafale with us, the result probably would have been different".