Paris: India says it will induct French-made Rafale fighter jets into its air force later this year, amid heightened military tensions with Pakistan, which saw the two nuclear-armed neighbors target each other’s warplanes last week.
The chief of Indian Air Force B.S. Dhanoa said on Monday that the first batch of Rafael fighter jets will be delivered in September.
New Delhi ordered 36 Rafale fighter planes from the Dassault Aviation of France back in 2016.
The acquisition of the jets, however, has been delayed so far due to the opposition by the Congress, which accuses Prime Minister Narendra Modi of benefiting his “friends” and not the country by the purchase.
Modi, in return, accused the Congress on Tuesday of inflicting “deep damage to our armed forces” by causing the delay.
The prime minster, who seeks a second term, said at a rally last week that the country would have been better placed to handle escalating tensions with Pakistan if it had acquired the fighter jets earlier.
Last week, India conducted “preemptive” airstrikes inside Pakistan against what was said to be a militant training camp belonging to the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) militant group, which claimed responsibility for an attack on an Indian security convoy in Pulwama, in Indian-administered Kashmir, on February 14. That attack killed more than 40 Indian troops..
India claimed the airstrikes killed some 300 militants. Pakistan, however, denied that the Indian raids had left any casualties or material damage.