Delhi inks deal to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets

French defence minister Jean Yves le Drian writes in the visitor's book after paying a tribute during a wreath laying ceremony at India Gate in New Delhi on Friday. (AFP)
Updated 23 September 2016
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Delhi inks deal to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets

NEW DELHI: India signed a deal Friday to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets for 7.9 billion euros ($8.8 billion), France’s biggest ever such sale, as it seeks to bolster its military against an increasingly assertive China.
Defense experts say the aircraft, manufactured by France’s Dassault, will bring a much needed boost to India’s air force as it struggles to renew its Soviet-era military hardware.
India, the world’s top defense importer, is conducting a $100-billion upgrade of its military hardware, facing border disputes with its northern and western neighbors, China and Pakistan.
“Rafale will significantly improve India’s strike & defense capabilities,” tweeted India’s Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar shortly after signing the deal with his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian.
Friday’s agreement follows years of tortuous negotiations and represents a substantial reduction from the 126 planes originally mooted.
But it is still France’s biggest ever aviation defense deal in financial terms and was hailed as a vote of confidence by French President Francois Hollande, whose administration has lobbied heavily for the Rafale.
“The agreement... is a mark of the recognition by a major military power of the operational performance, the technical quality and the competitiveness of the French aviation industry,” he said in a statement.
It is the biggest order for the Rafale after Egypt agreed to buy 24 of the jets in 2015 and Qatar purchased the same amount later that year.
The highly versatile aircraft is currently being used for bombing missions over Syria and Iraq as part of an international campaign against the self-styled Islamic State jihadist group.
It has also been deployed in the past for air strikes in Libya and Afghanistan.
The first planes will be delivered in 2019 and the 36 jets will form two new squadrons of the Indian airforce, which is trying to renew its dwindling fleet of Russian MiG-21s — dubbed “Flying Coffins” because of their poor safety record.
The air force currently has around 32 squadrons, each comprising 18 aircraft, but has said it needs at least 42 to protect its northern and western borders with Pakistan and China.
India has signed a number of major defense deals since Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi took power in 2014.
The Rafale purchase was first mooted under the previous administration in 2012, but faced major delays and obstacles over the last four years.


More than half of Albanians would like to emigrate

Updated 19 October 2018
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More than half of Albanians would like to emigrate

  • The country’s potential migration has grown from 44 percent in 2007 to 52 percent in 2018
  • Study shows those mulling migration now prefer Germany and the US

TIRANA: More than half of Albania’s population would like to move to richer countries with better schooling, a study showed on Friday.
The study, led by Russell King of the University of Sussex and Albanian researcher Ilir Gedeshi, found that the country’s potential migration had grown from 44 percent in 2007 to 52 percent in 2018.
Since Albania toppled communism in 1991, more than 1.4 million Albanians, nearly half the current population of the Balkan country, have emigrated mostly to neighboring Italy and Greece and less to the Britain, Germany and the United States.
The study showed economic motives were still the main factor, but less so, and that those mulling migration now prefer Germany and the US.
Some 65,000 Albanians applied for asylum in Germany in 2015-16, with most of them rejected as it began welcoming Syrians fleeing war at home. Germany has since begun welcoming doctors and nurses, almost all new graduates.
As the global and economic crisis since 2008 hit the economies of Italy and Greece, home to about one million Albanians, remittances to Albania, key to alleviating poverty, shrunk by one third and 133,544 migrants came back home.
“The unemployed, unskilled and uneducated were potential migrants earlier. Now the skilled, the educated with a job and good economic standing want to migrate,” Gedeshi told Reuters.
“We also found out economic reasons mattered less because people now want to migrate for better education. A group also wants to leave because they see no future in Albania,” he added.
Given the rising educational profile of potential migrants, the study recommended Albania sought agreements on “managed skilled migration, always bearing in mind the dangers of brain and skills drain.”
“Efforts should also be made to improve and broaden the structure of employment and business opportunities in Albania so that fewer people are pessimistic about their future in Albania and see migration as the ‘only way out’,” it added.