The French ambassador to India on Thursday denied a news report’s claim that Pakistani officers were trained to fly Rafale aircraft for Qatar in France in November 2017. The news report was published by the website Aviation International News in February.
Qatar had signed a €6.3-billion agreement to buy 24 Rafale aircraft in 2015, and added 12 more aircraft in 2017. India has also signed a deal to buy 36 Rafale aircraft from France, whose delivery is expected to start in September. The government has faced allegations of wrongdoing in the signing of the deal.
The February report was about the delivery of the first Rafale aircraft by its manufacturer Dassault Aviation to the Qatari air force. It said that Qatari personnel will be trained at three locations in France, and added: “The first batch of pilots trained for Qatar in November 2017 were Pakistani exchange officers.” The report did not elaborate on this.
The report has been shared widely on Twitter since Wednesday. Congress spokesperson Rachit Seth tweeted that the report “raises worry for India”. Defence commentator Yusuf Unjhawala noted: “Here our friend [a reference to France] is training Pak on the latest jet which we have bought, Pak hasn’t [bought]. And our friend has also said they won’t sell weapons to Pak. Questions have to be asked.”
In response, Alexandre Ziegler, the ambassador of France to India, wrote: “I can confirm that it is fake news.”
However, defence expert Ashok Swain observed that the claim is for Qatar to confirm, not the French ambassador to India.