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Can France be a worthy ally to India amid border row with China? Here’s why Dassault Rafale induction is a key strategy

DNA India, 09/09/2020

Amid the ongoing India-China border disputes, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has faced a major setback in its clash against the Indian Army along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh. However, if it’s not just the military standoffs and the skirmishes and conflict, Beijing is set to face another diplomatic hit from India on Thursday when it witnesses the formidable Dassault Rafale fighter jets inducted into the Indian Army, duly provided by France.

France’s defence minister Florence Parly will visit India on Thursday, along with her 80-member international delegation, to attend the induction ceremony of the French Rafale fighter jets at the Indian Air Force base in Ambala on the occasion. Both these steps are being seen as a huge message to China and Pakistan.

French defence minister Florence Parly will visit India on 10th September (i.e. Thursday) to take part in the Rafale fighter jet’s induction ceremony at Indian Air Force’s airbase in Ambala.

She will be accompanied by sizeable defence officials and defence industry delegation on a special plane and will have a full day of engagements. This is the French Minister’s first visit abroad after the COVID measures were put in place in France.

During the visit, other than having a bilateral with Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, she will also meet National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. India got the first batch of five Rafale fighter jets in July.

Calling India as “France’s strategic partner in the region”, Defence Minister Parly extended “her country’s deep solidarity”.

This is also the first high profile visit of any foreign dignitary to India amidst Chinese aggressiveness. After the Galwan incident, the French Defence Minister Florence Parly had written to Indian Defence minister Rajnath Singh condoling the death of 20 Indian soldiers in the Indian China violent face-off of June.

The French defence minister’s high-profile visit to India and the Rafale fighter jet induction ceremony into the IAF are both being seen as formidable messages for India’s strategic enemies — China and Pakistan. Through this, the two countries are clearly being given a clear message that the world will no longer tolerate their expansionist terror politics and that France will also stand with India in this fight.

India is to receive a total of 36 Dassault Rafale fighter jets from France. While five of them have already arrived in India, five more will arrive in November. The remaining 26 Rafale aircraft are expected to be available to India by the end of 2021. Out of these, 18 Dassault Rafale jets will be deployed at Ambala and another squadron at the Hashimara airbase in West Bengal.

Ambala Airbase in a strategic location

Ambala Airbase is one of the most important strategic military locations in India. Pakistan is about 300 km and China is about 450 km from the base. The Rafale twin-engine fighter jets, which have a flying capacity of up to 3700 km at a time, can easily crack down on these two enemies of India if deployed to do so.

Giorgio Borsa

The Founder of Asia Maior

Università di Pavia

The "Cesare Bonacossa" Centre for the Study of Extra-European Peoples

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