India’s move to buy 36 French Dassault Rafale jets has raised anxiety in India’s eastern neighbour China. State-run Global Times carried an article recently highlighting China’s worries about India’s increased military strength and how the nuclear-capable Rafales will add to India’s nuclear deterrence capability.
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar commented on Sunday that India may start getting the jets a little earlier than planned. It highlights the urgent need for India to secure its borders with dominant fighter aircraft which offer nuclear deterrence capabilities. Furthermore, the Rafale, which will come equipped with the Beyond Visual Range Meteor Missiles, adds an edge to the Indian Air Force over China’s and Pakistan’s. Dassault has promised to deliver the full lot within 66 months with the first delivery planned at 36 months from the signing date. The Rafale squadrons will be able to attack enemy targets without even crossing into the enemy’s territory.
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India bought the 36 jets in a deal worth 7.8 billion Euros this month. The IAF chose the Medium Multirole Combat Aircraft Rafale over competitors Saab Gripen, Lockheed Martin’s F-16IN fighting falcon, Boeing FA-18IN and the Eurofighter typhoon aircraft.
The Global Times article also raised alarms over the increasing arms imports in Asia from the ‘west’. Chinese experts have expressed concerns about the Rafale deal and several commentators and policymakers contend that India will deploy the squadrons across her eastern and western borders to counter Chinese and Pakistani threat. Chinese interests are best met if its neighbours remain weak and subservient. However, India’s resurgence on the global strategic arena and increased bonhomie with the US has put China on the backfoot and it finds itself in a quandary on countering India’s growing strength.
Pointing fingers at the arms exporters in the ‘West’, the paper also claimed that western exporters were not interested in helping the growth of India’s arms manufacturing industry. China itself is one of the major arms exporters. However, its own FC-1 and J10 aircrafts have been beaten in arms deals across the globe on several counts. The paper claimed that one of the reasons for India’s and other Asian arms importers’ heightened acquisition spree was the hyped China threat ‘pushed’ by the West.
China has played the big brother to Pakistan whenever a conflict between India and Pakistan has sparked. China’s indirect support to Pakistan, in terms of military aid and the increased presence of Chinese troops on India’s borders, is a cause for concern and India will want to curb any impending threat as signs arise of a rattled China.