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IAF’s Rafale Deal with France: India confirms order

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New Delhi: With the confirmation of the order by the Indian government for 36 Rafale jets with the French government, the Indian Air Force’s quest for a Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) was finally over.

According to sources, documents for the government-to-government deal were delivered by New Delhi to Paris on New Year’s eve, and the agreement is on the same lines as that for the Mirage 2000 aircraft signed in the early 1980s. IAF will buy all the Rafale aircraft from Dassault, the French aircraft builder and integrator, in a flyaway condition.

As the deal is between governments, the French authorities will ensure that Dassault complies with the terms of reference as it has successfully done in the case of Mirage 2000 — about 60 of which were delivered beginning 1985. The basic agreement was for 49 and 10 more were acquired later.

Significantly, this is the second deal for IAF – and Indian Army – within one week, the other being for Russian Kamov-31 helicopters signed on Christmas Eve with the Russian Government in Moscow during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit there. That deal involves a substantial manufacturing of these machines in India as the number is large — more than 200.

It may be noted that originally IAF was to acquire 126 aircraft after the Rafale was selected in the MMRCA competition some time back, 18 in flyaway condition and 108 as progressively assembled and made in India by HAL under part Transfer of Technology (ToT). Private industry was to be involved, but HAL’s share was negotiated as more than 70 percent.

There were a lot of hiccups, over costs of the aircraft — over $100 million-plus per aircraft — and offsets from the Indian side and responsibility for the quality of production in India from the French side. Finally, keeping in mind IAF’s urgent requirements, the prime minister intervened to order 36 aircraft, or two squadrons, in a direct government-to-government deal during his visit to Paris in April.

This time, the deal involved no production in India but there were still some hiccups over the 50 percent stipulated offsets although aircraft costs would, by and large, have been the same as for the French Air Force (Armée de l’Air). Offset obligations would always be additional.

Modi, intervening again, spoke directly with French President Francois Hollande on a telephone in early September, and expressed difficulty in concluding the deal without the offsets. Hollande graciously agreed, and IAF approved the deal in mid-December. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) delivered a copy of the Inter-Government Agreement in this regard through the established diplomatic channels just as the New Year was set to begin.

Under the deal, Dassault and its main partners — engine maker Safran and electronic systems maker Thales — will share some technology with Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and maybe some private sector companies and HAL under the offsets clause. Details are not known but as the aircraft have to be flown and maintained in India for at least three-to-four decades, a lot of information and technology upgrades will be needed to keep them operational.

The twin-engine Rafale combat jet is designed from the beginning as a multi-role fighter for air-to-air and air-to-ground attacks, is nuclear- capable and, thanks to its onboard Electronic Warfare (EW) systems, can also perform reconnaissance and radar jamming roles.

The deal involves delivery of aircraft to begin within three years of signing the agreement — 2018-end in this case — but French industry sources told this writer some time back in Paris that Dassault had started planning for the Indian order from mid-2015 itself, and “maybe the deliveries could be faster if required.”

Last year had been lucky for Dassault as the Rafale has also been selected by Egypt and Qatar while the UAE is considering it seriously.

There are suddenly too many orders, and the only way to meet them is to divert the French Air Force requirements for the next few years. That is being done.(Gulshan Luthra, IANS) 

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India Demands Data on UN Staff Misconduct, Use of Immunity

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India has demanded the secretariat disclose information about misconduct by UN staff. Flickr

United Nations, Oct 7: In an attempt to break the wall of silence around the crimes and UN staff misconduct and those on its assignments, India has demanded the secretariat disclose information about such cases and the immunity invoked against prosecutions.

Yedla Umasankar, the legal advisor in India’s UN Mission, touched a raw nerve here by criticising the UN on Friday for not vigorously following up allegations of serious wrongdoing by its employees who enjoy the equivalent of diplomatic immunity, a prized possession of its staff.

“It appears that the UN system itself may be reluctant to waive immunity even for serious misconduct carried out by its personnel while serving on its missions, so that such cases can be prosecuted by the host governments,” he told the General Assembly’s committee on legal affairs.

“Even a few of such instances or allegations of crimes committed by UN personnel is highly damaging for the image and credibility of the United Nations system and its work around the world,” he added.

His statement also touched on the practice of some countries that protect their wrongdoers at the UN.

Umasankar demanded that secretariat disclose how many cases of serious misconduct by UN personnel were registered and the number of cases where the UN refused to waive immunity to allow their prosecution.

He also wanted to know in how many cases the host country wanted the immunity waived so it can prosecute those accused; the number of times the UN asked the host country or the country that sent them to prosecute them; how many times it consulted countries before waiver of the immunity of their personnel and how many of them refused UN’s request to waive their citizens’ immunity.

The information he wanted does not cover the diplomats sent by member countries to represent them at UN bodies and enjoy diplomatic immunity with the nations hosting the UN facilities.

After scores of serious allegations of sexual misconduct by peacekeepers, especially exploitation of children, the UN vowed to uphold a policy of zero tolerance and began publishing data on such cases in peacekeeping operations including how they were dealt with.

Starting with the year 2015, it began identifying the nationalities of those accused.

However, it has not made public a roster detailing all the allegations and proven cases of serious misconduct across the entire UN.

While the focus has been on sexual exploitation and abuse reported on peacekeeping operations, Umasankar said that “at a broader level, the issue of accountability has remained elusive in some cases”.

He attributed it to “the complexities of legal aspects relating to sovereignty and jurisdiction”, the immunity or privileges that may be necessary for UN operations, and the capability or willingness of countries to investigate and prosecute the accused.

He noted that the UN itself cannot make criminal prosecutions.

While Indian laws has provisions for dealing with crimes committed abroad by its citizens, not all countries have them, he said.

Those countries should be encouraged and helped to implement such measures, he added. (IANS)

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7 killed, after Mi-17 V5 an IAF Chopper Crashed in Arunachal

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IAF chopper Mi-17 v5
IAF chopper Mi-17 V5, at Yelhanka, Air Force Station. Wikimedia

Tawang, October 6:  Seven Indian Air Force personnel were killed after a Mi-17 V5, IAF Chopper Crashed in Arunachal Pradesh on Friday.

Tawang district Superintendent of Police Manoj Kumar Meena said the IAF Chopper Crashed around 6.30 a.m. killing all the seven people on board.

The chopper was on a routine Air Maintenance Mission, Meena quoted a Defence officer as saying.

The crash site is located at some four-to-five hours drive from Tawang. “It is a forested area,” Meena said adding that the bodies are being brought to the helipad near Tawang.

“We are told that there were no civilians and all were defence personnel,” he said.

Earlier in July an Indian Air Force chopper engaged in a flood rescue mission crashed near Papum Pare district in the hill state killing four persons including three IAF crew and one India Reserve Battalion (IRB) personnel.

The frequently changing weather condition in Arunachal Pradesh makes flying of choppers difficult in the area and there have been several incidents of crashes in the hill state in the past.

The then Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh, Dorjee Khandu, and four others also died in an IAF Chopper Crashed in the hill state in 2011. (IANS)

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India has ‘Plan B’, ready for any challenge from China, says Indian Air Force Chief B S Dhanoa

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Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa.

New Delhi, Oct 5: Indian Air Force Chief, Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa on Thursday said India is prepared to counter any threat from China and was also ready to face a two-front war.

Addressing the annual press conference of the IAF ahead of Air Force Day, the Indian Air Force Chief said they have a ‘Plan B’ to cater for the shortage of strength if there is a situation of war on two fronts.

“We need a strength of 42 squadrons to carry out full spectrum operations, but it doesn’t mean we can’t fight a two-front scenario. There is a Plan B,” he said when asked about being prepared for a two-front war.

He also said the possibility of a two-front war in the current geopolitical scenario is low.

He said “our capability is adequate” to counter any threat from the Eastern side — China.

The Indian Air Force Chief also said more than assets, the question was what China can and cannot do operating from Tibet against India.

He also said that Chinese troops are still stationed in the Chumbi valley, of which Doklam is a part, and hoped that they return soon.

Dhanoa said: “We are not in physical face-off but in Chumbi valley their troops are still deployed.”

“Hope they will withdraw in future after their exercises are over,” the IAF chief said.

He also said that there was no face-off in the air during the over 70 days long standoff and there were no air violations.

“I take this opportunity to assure the nation of our sacred resolve in defending the sovereignty of our skies,” he added.(IANS)