April 11, 2019
French Ambassador to India Alexandre Ziegler saved the Indian government fresh embarrassment over Rafale today. Rejecting news of Pakistani Pakistani Air Force pilots being trained on Rafale jets, Alexander Ziegler said it is fake news. Alexander Ziegler tweeted: I can confirm that it is fake news.
The French Ambassador’s reaction came after there was fresh uproar on social media over the Rafale deal. This was triggered by a February report in Aviation International News.
Aviation International News reported in February that the delivery of the first of 36 Rafale fighter jets for Qatar has been done. Aviation International News reported: “The first batch of pilots trained for Qatar in November 2017 was Pakistani exchange officers.”
This bit of information was reportedly put up on a Pakistani defence website on Wednesday and was the cause of much speculation by social media users in India.
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP)’s Jitendra Awhad took a direct dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Jitendra Awhad said Modi government was keeping the Rafale contract price a “top secret” even as Pakistani pilots were flying the aircraft for Qatar.
Alexander Ziegler’s statement will effectively put an end to such speculations and save the Modi government new embarrassment over the Rafale deal in this poll season. The Congress party has made the deal an election issue and even coined the phrase Chowkidar Chor Hai to attack PM Modi for making industrialist Anil Ambani an offset partner in the deal.
The Indian Air Force’s first Rafale jets will be delivered in September this year.