Moments after the five Rafale fighter jets landed at the Indian Air Force’s Ambala air base on Wednesday, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said the arrival of the aircraft in India would give the IAF’s combat capability a “timely boost” and make it “much stronger to deter any threat” that may be posed to our country. Singh, who had travelled to France last year to formally receive the first fighter jet, showered praises on the multi-role aircraft for its capabilities, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the decision to buy 36 fighter jets.
Singh also packed in a sharp, even if veiled, message to China’s military.
Defence minister Rajnath Singh didn’t name China. He didn’t have to. China’s People’s Liberation Army has parked troops near the Line of Actual Control where it had been in a standoff with Indian defence forces since May this year. It agreed to withdraw its troops from the standoff points after a bloody clash in Ladakh’s Galwan area following PLA’s attempts to erect structures on the Indian side led to the death of 20 Indian soldiers and an unspecified number of casualties on the Chinese side.
But Beijing has been slow to carry out a complete disengagement of troops as agreed between the two sides in several rounds of military and diplomatic talks. Besides, the army has also reported that the PLA, which thinned out its troops in the forward areas, had mobilised nearly 50,000 troops in the depth areas.
“I would like to add, if it is anyone who should be worried about or critical about this new capability of the Indian Air Force, it should be those who want to threaten our territorial integrity,” Rajnath tweeted and posted a video clip of the Rafale jets landing at the Ambala base of the Indian Air Force.
The fighter jets are widely seen as a game changer for India’s strategic capabilities who underline that it will significantly enhance the offensive capabilities of the Indian Air Force (IAF) with their advanced weaponry. The jet is capable of carrying out a variety of missions — ground and sea attack, air defence and air superiority, reconnaissance and nuclear strike deterrence, they say.
Former IAF chief BS Dhanoa told Hindustan Times just before the planes landed that Rafale with its top of the line electronic warfare suite, Meteor beyond visual range missile and SCALP air to ground weapon with its terrain following capability outguns any threat that the Chinese Air Force produces.
Rajnath also credited PM Narendra Modi for taking a timely decision to purchase the aircrafts in 2016 that had led to a huge controversy, especially after the Congress rested its campaign for the 2019 General elections around the allegation that India had bought overpriced fighter jets. The government, however, fought it out, defending the deal in the Supreme Court and campaigning for the Lok Sabha elections. It won.
Singh credited the prime minister’s courage for going ahead with the deal.
“The Rafale jets were purchased only because PM Shri @narendramodi took the right decision to get these aircrafts through an Inter-Governmental Agreement with France, after the long pending procurement case for them could not progress. I thank him for his courage & decisiveness,” he said.