Alexandre Ziegler, French Ambassador to India, on Thursday trashed the reports of Pakistani exchange pilots getting Rafale training in Qatar. “I can confirm that it is fake news,” Ziegler said on Twitter. According to ainonline.com, an independent media portal that reports about defence news, Pakistani pilots were reportedly given training to fly Rafale fighter jets. “The first batch of pilots trained for Qatar in November 2017 were Pakistani exchange officers,” the site said. The NDTV had also reported about the ‘training’ quoting the site. However, it had also said that Dassault was ‘not aware’ about any such incident.
Qatar signed a €6.3 billion agreement for the purchase of 24 Rafales (six of them two-seat trainers) in May 2015. “Qatar’s Rafales differ in detail from those delivered to France and Egypt, and integration of the Lockheed Martin Sniper targeting pod and Elbit Systems TARGO-II helmet-mounted target designation system required extensive testing,” the ainonline.com report said.
The report comes amid intense political battle over the fighter jet. The Congress has been alleging massive irregularities in the deal while the government has strongly rejected the charges. India is procuring a batch of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France at a cost of Rs 58,000 crore.
Yesterday, in massive setback to the Centre, the Supreme Court had agreed to hear petitions for a review of its verdict in the Rafale jet deal on the basis of 'leaked' secret documents by dismissing its preliminary objections. The apex court in its verdict on December 14 rejected demands for a court-monitored probe into the Rafale deal and gave a clean chit to the Modi government on procurement of 36 fighter jets from French company Dassault Aviation, holding there was no irregularity in the decision-making process, pricing or selection of Indian Offset Partner. Dismissing the government's contention that sensitive documents accessed by the media on the Rafale deal can't be evidence by claiming privilege and that the petitions were not maintainable, the court Wednesday said it will examine the papers while reviewing on merits the review petitions.
(With agency inputs)