Pak Pilots Flying Rafales Is ‘Fake News’ Says French Ambassador

No Pakistani pilots were trained by France to fly the Rafale aircraft for the Qatari Air Force, clarified the Ambassador of France to New Delhi, said a media report.

An independent media firm, reported that “the first batch of pilots trained for Qatar in November 2017 were Pakistani exchange officers”.

“Escadron de Chasse 04.030 was established at Mont-de-Marsan as the Qatar Rafale Squadron on 1 Oct 2017,” the report also said.

Ambassador Alexandre Ziegler tweeted, “I can confirm that it is fake news.”

NDTV reported that French government sources said they had cross-checked details of this article.

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This is significant as the Qatar Emiri Air Force has ordered many of the same weapons the Indian Air Force has, reported The Week.

Qatar signed a €6.3 billion agreement for the purchase of 24 Rafales in May 2015. Qatar then bought 12 more Dassault Rafales, making a total of 36 now due to enter service with the Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF).

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One of the main reasons the Narendra Modi government has stated for not revealing details of the Rafale deal has been to protect the identity of the specific Rafales. This claim of Pakistani pilots flying Qatar's Rafale fighters is raising questions.

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Since day one, the Rafale deal has been mired in controversy. The government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been accused of favouring industrialist Anil Ambani's firm Reliance Defence for the contract with Dassault Aviation.

Recently, the Supreme Court rejected the Centre’s argument that key documents relied on by the petitioners were “stolen” and “classified” and so could not be considered by the court when conducting a review of their judgment from December 2018. They also rejected the government’s claim that the documents couldn’t be used because of the government’s “privilege” under Section 123 of the Indian Evidence Act.

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(With inputs from The Week, NDTV)

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