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Home / India / Rafale here, spunk on China awaited

Rafale here, spunk on China awaited

Veterans and analysts scoff at chest-thumping
A photograph tweeted by the Indian defence ministry shows the Rafale fighter jets being  escorted by the Indian Air Force’s Sukhoi Su-30 MKI fighters as the new planes enter Indian airspace on Wednesday. MIT professor Vipin Narang tweeted: “A picture is worth a thousand words: two Russian-made heavy fighters escorting a billion dollars worth of five French-made medium fighters into Indian airspace captures Indian defence production and operational challenges in a nutshell.”

Imran Ahmed Siddiqui   |   New Delhi   |   Published 30.07.20, 03:42 AM

The arrival of five Rafale fighter jets at the Ambala airbase on Wednesday triggered a Sanskrit tweet by the Prime Minister, muscle-flexing by the defence minister and wall-to-wall coverage by several TV channels.

The explosion of chest-thumping prompted some military veterans and Twitter users to ask whether India had never possessed fighter aircraft before.

“I don’t think I’m exaggerating: I honestly don’t know if an aircraft ferry flight has been this extensively covered in the history of mankind,” tweeted Christopher Clary, professor at Albany University in the US and an expert on South Asian politics, nuclear proliferation and US defence policy.

Several veterans scoffed at defence minister Rajnath Singh’s boast that the delivery of the first batch of the Rafale aircraft would worry “those who want to threaten our territorial integrity”.

“Hope we are now strong enough to name China,” a military veteran told The Telegraph.

P.R.N. Mohan, a retired army official, tweeted: “India today lives only on hope n hype. Hope these much awaited fighter jets bring along some badly needed courage, so that our bold leaders can name the adversary, to start with. That’s the master stroke, that will make the unnamed adversary run for cover.”

Few in the government have so far named China or directly acknowledged an incursion in Ladakh, following the policy Prime Minister Narendra Modi has adopted through the 12-week-old standoff.

Modi too welcomed the Rafale aircraft, acquired from French company Dassault through a deal that had led Rahul Gandhi to accuse him personally of corrupt practice to benefit his alleged industrialist cronies.

Sharing a video of the jets landing at Ambala, the Prime Minister tweeted in Sanskrit that there was no bigger virtue or duty than making the nation secure. “Touch the sky with glory,” he said.

Retd Lt Col Anil Duhoon tweeted: “Now since Rafales have arrived, @PMOIndia @narendramodi will name China for intrusion in Ladakh on 15 Aug while addressing the Nation.”

Rajnath said in a tweet: “I would like to add, if it is anyone who should be worried about or critical about this new capability of the Indian Air Force, it should be those who want to threaten our territorial integrity.”

He said the Rafale delivery marked a new era in India’s military history. “These multirole aircrafts will revolutionise the capabilities of the IAF.”

Former diplomat K.C. Singh poured scorn on the hype around the jets’ arrival.

“Who cares about reality. First we attacked #COVID by banging thalis. Headline management mayn’t scare the Chinese, it’s supposed to reassure average Indian that Modiji is countering China effectively,” he tweeted.

A defence ministry official recalled that when India received its first batch of seven Mirage 2000s from Dassault in 1985, hardly anybody got to hear about it.

“There was no such coverage even by Doordarshan. But now there’s so much frenzy over five Rafale aircraft,” he said.

The five jets --- three single-seat and two double-seat aircraft --- arrived having covered nearly 7,000km and were escorted by two Sukhoi Su-30 MKIs after they entered Indian airspace. They will be part of the air force’s No. 17 Squadron, also known as the Golden Arrows.

Piloted by Indian Air Force officers, the five planes had taken off from Merignac in France on Monday and made a stopover in the United Arab Emirates, where France has an airbase.

Visuals posted by the IAF on Tuesday showed the jets refuelling at a height of 30,000 feet. After they took off from the UAE on Wednesday, the jets established contact with the Indian Navy warship INS Calcutta in the western Arabian Sea.

“Welcome to the Indian Ocean…. May you touch the sky with glory,” the warship was heard telling a Rafale commander in English in an audio clip.

The TV channels covered their arrival since morning, aided by the IAF which provided videos and photos of the takeoff, transit stop, refuelling and landing.

Vipin Narang, MIT professor of political science and an expert on nuclear security and terrorism who has been writing on the India-China border standoff, tweeted: “A picture is worth a thousand words: two Russian-made heavy fighters escorting a billion dollars worth of five French-made medium fighters into Indian airspace captures Indian defence production and operational challenges in a nutshell.”

Of the 36 Rafale jets India has bought under an April 2015 deal inked during a France visit by Modi, another 26 will be delivered on schedule by the end of 2021, the Indian embassy said. The remaining five will be delivered later.

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