As the first five Rafale fighter aircraft are on their way to India, marking a new milestone in India-France defence cooperation, New Delhi has been in touch with all major arms suppliers — Russia, the US, France and Israel — at the political and diplomatic level amid the border standoff with China.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Sunday spoke with Israel’s Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi as the latest conversation.
Earlier, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had spoken with his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Gantz, and both had “expressed satisfaction at the progress of strategic cooperation between the two countries and discussed possibilities of further strengthening the defence engagements”.
Jaishankar has also spoken with US Secretary of State Michael R Pompeo, and Singh with his US counterpart Mark T Esper, while National Security Adviser Ajit Doval has been in touch with his counterpart in the Trump administration, Robert C O’Brien. Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark A Milley, and Chief of Defence Staff, General Bipin Rawat, have had a conversation in the last few weeks.
The focus of the series of conversations was to advance military and intelligence cooperation.
Singh had travelled to Russia in June, where the Russian leadership had assured India of early delivery of weapon systems which were ordered and has responded positively to Indian acquisition proposals.
With France, too, the conversations have taken place between Jaishankar and his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian, while that country’s Defence Minister Florence Parly had written to Singh to condole the deaths of 20 soldiers in Galwan Valley in the June 15 clash with the Chinese army. Parly had recalled that India is France’s “strategic partner in the region”, and had “reiterated her country’s deep solidarity”.
“The delivery of the Rafale fighter jets is significant step in strengthening air power and defence preparedness with the first five Rafale fighter aircraft, built by Dassault, flying out from Merignac airbase in Bordeaux, France, to India today,” a statement from the Indian embassy in France said on Monday.
India’s Ambassador to France Jawed Ashraf, who saw off the Rafale aircraft and met the IAF pilots, said that the long-awaited and much-needed two squadrons of Rafale would add great strength to IAF and the country’s defence capabilities.
“Our pilots tell us that they are extremely swift, nimble, versatile and very deadly aircraft. You might call them that they are both beauty and the beast,” Ashraf, who was earlier joint secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office and has served as India’s envoy to Singapore, said in France.
In a statement, the IAF said the aircraft are likely to arrive at Ambala Air Force Station on Wednesday, “subject to weather”, and that “No 17 Squadron, the ‘Golden Arrows’, is being raised at this base equipped with Rafale aircraft”.
The jets took off from Merignac airbase near Bordeaux, France, and had successfully reached Al Dhafra French base near Abu Dhabi, UAE, by Monday evening after sortie of over seven hours, the IAF said.
The Golden Arrows, which will be resurrected with the new Rafale jets, were raised in 1951 and have been involved in many significant operations through their history, including the Kargil War, but was disbanded in 2016.
India had bought 36 twin-engine fighter planes from Dassault Rafale through an inter-governmental agreement signed in 2016. All 36 aircraft are scheduled to arrive by end of 2021. — With inputs from Krishn Kaushik
Delhi, Jakarta agree to enhance defence ties
New Delhi: India hosted Indonesian Defence Minister General Prabowo Subianto Monday, with the government saying in a statement that the visiting dignitary was in the country “for strengthening the ties between the two maritime neighbours”.
Subianto met Defence Minister Rajnath Singh for a Defence Ministers’ dialogue in Delhi. According to the statement, Singh said the “defence cooperation between India and Indonesia has witnessed an upswing in the recent years, which is in consonance with the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between the two sides”.
The ministers agreed to further enhance bilateral defence cooperation in mutually agreed areas, which can include defence industries and defence technology. —Express News Service
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