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.


UK PM candidate Hunt: Boris Johnson is a ‘coward’ for avoiding debates on Brexit

Updated 24 June 2019
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UK PM candidate Hunt: Boris Johnson is a ‘coward’ for avoiding debates on Brexit

  • Jeremy Hunt: It was disrespectful for Boris Johnson to turn down the opportunity for a head-to-head debate
  • Hunt says candidates should explain their Brexit positions

LONDON: Jeremy Hunt, one of the two candidates vying to replace British Prime Minister Theresa May, said on Monday that rival Boris Johnson was a coward for avoiding public head-to-head debates on what to do about Brexit.
“On the question of debates, he is being a coward,” Foreign Secretary Hunt said. “It is cowardice not to appear in head-to-head debates.”
Hunt, 52, said it was disrespectful for Johnson to have turned down the opportunity for a head-to-head debate on Sky television.
“People need to know what you’re going to do and you need to answer those questions,” Hunt said. “I promise Boris Johnson the fight of his life and he’s going to have that and he’s going to lose.”
Johnson, 55, is the favorite to win a vote of 160,000 Conservative Party members who will decide who will be the next prime minister. Betting markets give him a 79 percent implied probability of winning the top job, down from 92 percent last week.
He has cast himself as the only candidate who can deliver Brexit on October 31 — with or without a deal — while fighting off the electoral threats of Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party and socialist Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour.
Early on Friday, police were called to Johnson’s home after neighbors heard a loud altercation between him and his girlfriend. Police said there was no cause for police action.
The Guardian newspaper, which first reported the story, said an unidentified neighbor had heard Johnson’s girlfriend, Carrie Symonds, screaming followed by “slamming and banging.” At one point, Symonds could be heard telling Johnson to “get off me” and “get out of my flat.”
Johnson declined to answer questions about the incident at a hustings event in Birmingham on Saturday.
Hunt said the personal life of Johnson was irrelevant but that the candidates should explain their Brexit positions — and specifically what would a new leader do if lawmakers tried to sink a new government heading toward a no-deal Brexit.
“If parliament takes no-deal off the table before Oct. 31, will Boris call a general election?” Hunt said. “I think a general election would be catastrophic.”
Hunt said he would seek a better deal from the EU to leave on Oct. 31 and would, if absolutely necessary, leave without a deal. If parliament took a no-deal Brexit off the table, he intimated there would have to be delay.
“In that situation, you would have to carry on negotiating,” Hunt said. “I want to leave by Oct. 31 but if parliament stops it the prime minister has to obey the law.”
Johnson repeated on Monday that he would lead the United Kingdom out of the EU on Oct. 31 with or without a deal.
“We are going to come out of the EU on October 31,” he wrote in The Daily Telegraph. “This time we are not going to bottle it.”
Like Hunt, Johnson promised lower taxes if he wins the top job.
When asked the naughtiest thing he had ever done, Hunt said: “When I was backpacking through India, I once had a Bhang Lassi — which is a kind of cannabis lassi — that’s the naughtiest thing I am prepared to confess to on this program.”