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‘Something big is coming’: Will Rafales soon deck INS Vikrant?

Paris has time and again reaffirmed its engagement in the Indo-Pacific and India’s centrality in the French strategy for the region…reports Ateet Sharma

As the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, currently in the Indian Ocean, begins Indo-French naval exercise Varuna, speculation is rife that a formal contract for decking the naval version of Rafale fighter jets on the INS Vikrant, India’s brand new carrier could soon be on the cards.

Welcoming on board officers from the Indian Navy’s guided missile stealth frigate INS Teg on Monday, the French Carrier Strike Group signalled a major development in the offing for the strengthening of the Franco-Indian strategic partnership.

“Happy to sea you INS Teg. Beginning of our cooperation with Indian Navy. INS Teg is conducting operational drills with the French CSG in the Indian Ocean. Something BIG is coming between our two navies!” tweeted the official handle of French CSG.

Emmanuel Lenain, the Ambassador of France to India, also advised to “stay tuned for more!” as both navies kicked off the bilateral exercise on the Western seaboard on Monday.

Paris has time and again reaffirmed its engagement in the Indo-Pacific and India’s centrality in the French strategy for the region.

As reported by earlier, France is offering Dassault Aviation’s Rafale maritime fighter for carrier operations on India’s first indigenously designed and built aircraft carrier INS Vikrant.

Last November, French Defence Minister Sebastien Lecornu boarded the largest ship ever built in the maritime history of India to highlight the central role of naval cooperation between the two countries.

“France and India are united in their desire to defend their maritime sovereignty and guarantee freedom of movement at sea in the Indo-Pacific zone,” said the French Defence Minister.

While 2022 saw an acceleration of the French and Indian armed forces’ endeavours towards greater interoperability through joint air, navy, and army exercises, such as IMEX 22 (March), Varuna (March-April), and Garuda (October-November), 2023 has started with the conduct of the 21st edition of Varuna bilateral naval exercise.

The five-day high tempo-naval operations at sea till January 20 will witness the participation of indigenous guided missile stealth destroyer INS Chennai, guided missile frigate INS Teg, maritime patrol aircraft P-8I and Dornier, integral helicopters and MiG29K fighter aircraft.

The French Navy is represented by the aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle, frigates FS Forbin and Provence, support vessel FS Marne and maritime patrol aircraft Atlantique.

According to the Indian Navy, the exercise will witness advanced air defence drills, tactical manoeuvres, surface firings, underway replenishment and other maritime operations.

“Units of both navies will endeavour to hone their war-fighting skills in maritime theatre, enhance their inter-operability to undertake multi-discipline operations in the maritime domain and demonstrate their ability as an integrated force to promote peace, security and stability in the region,” it said in a statement.

The exercise, it added, not only provides an opportunity to learn from each other’s best practices but also facilitates operational-level interaction between the two navies to foster mutual cooperation for good order at sea, underscoring the shared commitment of both nations to security, safety and freedom of the global maritime commons.

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France provides military support to UAE

Rafale fighter planes, which belong to France’s permanent military base in Abu Dhabi, will be engaged alongside the UAE armed forces in “surveillance, detection and interception missions if necessary,” reports Asian Lit News

France on Friday decided to reinforce UAE’s air defence after a series of drone attacks launched from Yemen by Iran-backed Houthi militias on the country, the French armed forces minister said on Friday.

“The United Arab Emirates were victims of serious attacks on their territory in January. In order to show our solidarity with this friendly country, France has decided to provide military support, in particular to protect their airspace against any intrusion,” Florence Parly said on twitter.
She said Rafale fighter planes, which belong to France’s permanent military base in Abu Dhabi, “are thus engaged alongside the UAE armed forces in surveillance, detection and interception missions if necessary.”

She also hailed the longstanding partnership between France and the United Arab Emirates.

“France and the United Arab Emirates are linked by a strategic partnership, our contribution is part of the application of our defense cooperation agreement,” she added.

UAE had recently signed a contract with France that includes purchasing 80 Rafale fighter jets to replace the UAE Air Force Mirage fleet in addition to training and maintenance purposes.

Meanwhile, the United States is sending its guided missile destroyer USS Cole and fighter jets to partner with the UAE Navy in the wake of the recent Houthi attacks against the country.

In a phone call with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin spoke reviewed a range of actions the Department of Defence is taking to support the UAE. These include continuing to provide early warning intelligence, collaborating on air defense, and sending USS Cole to the region.

USS Cole

USS Cole is the same missile destroyer that was attacked by Al Qaeda militants on October 12, 2000 – a precursor to 9/11 – during a port call in Aden, resulting in the death of 17 US Navy sailors, Khaleej Times reported.

Austin informed the Crown Prince of his decision to deploy 5th Generation Fighter aircraft to assist the UAE against the current threat and as a clear signal that the United States stands with the UAE as a long-standing strategic partner, the Pentagon said in a press release.

READ MORE: US sending warship, fighter jets to support UAE

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UAE, France Ink Mega Deals

The UAE has placed an order for 80 Rafale fighter planes and 12 Caracal H225 helicopters, reports Asian Lite News

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has sealed a contract with France to buy fighters and military helicopters.

The deal was inked Friday as French President Emmanuel Macron met with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, in Dubai.

At the invitation of Sheikh Mohamed, President Macron, visited the UAE on Friday.

According to the deal, the UAE has placed an order for 80 Rafale fighter planes and 12 Caracal H225 helicopters, the French president said in a tweet.

French President Emmanuel Macron with Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (Photo: Twitter@Elysee

The order for Rafale jets is the largest overseaorder for the warplane since its introduction in 2004. French Defence Minister Florence Parly hailed the deal as “historic” in a tweet.

Macron kicked off a two-day tour to the Gulf region, where he will also visit Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Sheikh Mohamed and President Macron toured EXPO 2020, emphasising the importance of this event in building bridges and promoting partnerships.

Macron conveyed his congratulations to Sheikh Mohamed on the occasion of the national day and the Golden Jubilee of the UAE on 2 December, and praised the achievements made by the country in the preceding 50 years.

He also congratulated Sheikh Mohamed and the people of the UAE on hosting the Conference of the Parties in 2023 (COP28) which would be of special significance.

He highlighted the opportunity for France and the UAE to work jointly to tackle the global threat of climate change, as well as finalising the Paris Agreement rulebook and mobilising finance for developing countries most affected by climate change.

Sheikh Mohamed stated that the UAE looks forward to working with France and the international community to accelerate global efforts to address climate change and environmental protection and to create a more sustainable economic future. The French President emphasised the ambitious commitments taken by the European Union to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 and to reduce net emissions by at least 55% by 2030.
In a joint communique marking the visit of the French president, the UAE and France highlighted their commitment to align their support to developing countries with the objectives of the Paris Agreement and to increase their support to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the International Solar Alliance.

The two leaders reaffirmed the expansion of this partnership, with France supplying 80 Rafale fighter jets to the UAE Air Force Squadron in addition to 12 Caracal H225 Helicopters including weaponising, training and spare parts, with contracts worth 16.6 billion euros.

Meanwhile, both leaders have also discussed the Iranian nuclear program and underscored the importance of a negotiated solution.

In the field of culture, the two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the success of Louvre Abu Dhabi as the emblem of the strategic cultural cooperation and an enduring legacy of the close ties that link the two countries. They welcomed an extension of the intergovernmental agreement that will enshrine for the future the position and the development of this unique museum in the region. Both leaders called for new projects to further propel cultural cooperation.

The two leaders highlighted their shared economic interests and enhance their competitiveness through cooperation and investment in future-looking sectors. Both leaders witnessed the signing of economic agreements with a total value of more than 15 billion euros to strengthen the strategic investment partnership between the UAE and France, targeting sectors of mutual priority and interest, including sectors identified in the ‘France2030’ economic program, such as renewable energies, innovation, technologies and 4.0 industries.

An extension of the current co-investment programme between Mubadala Investment Company and Bpifrance was signed, for a total joint amount of 4 billion euros, to be deployed in line with the previous strategy of both Franco-Emirati Fund and the Innovation Partnership. Mubadala Investment Company signed as well a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the French Ministry of Economy and Finance, to explore investments in French funds for a total amount of 1.4 billion euros.

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan with French President Emmanuel Macron

Furthermore, Masdar, one of the world’s fastest-growing renewable energy companies, and ENGIE, a global energy player in low-carbon energy and services have signed a strategic alliance agreement to explore the co-development of a UAE-based green hydrogen hub. The two companies are looking to develop projects with a capacity of at least 2 gigawatts (GW) by 2030, with a total investment in the region of around 4.4 billion euros.

An investment agreement was also signed between ADQ, through its portfolio companies, and the French Ministry of Economy, Finance, and Recovery to explore investment opportunities with France in the fields of mobility and logistics, food and agriculture, clean energy, life sciences, and healthcare with a total amount of up to 4.6 billion euros.

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France probe into Rafale deal revives political row in India

Congress demands Prime Minister Narendra Modi to order an investigation, reports Asian Lite News

The controversy over the Rafale jet deal has resurfaced with the Congress party seeking a joint parliamentary committee investigation after a French news website reported that a French judge has been appointed to lead a “highly sensitive” judicial probe into alleged “corruption and favouritism” in the Rs 59,000-crore deal with India.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi should order the investigation, Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala told reporters in Delhi on Saturday. “Corruption in the Rafale deal has come out clearly now. The stand of the Congress party and Rahul Gandhi has been vindicated today after the French government ordered a probe,” Surjewala said.

France’s National Financial Prosecutors’ Office on Friday said it will look into alleged corruption in the sale of Rafale jets to India. This French judicial institution was created in December 2013 to track down serious economic and financial crimes.

“When the French government has accepted that there is corruption in the deal, should a JPC (joint parliamentary committee) probe be not held in the country where the corruption took place?” Mr Surjewala said.

The Congress had used alleged corruption in the Rafale deal to attack the government during the intense campaign for the general election in 2019. Party leader Rahul Gandhi had targeted PM Modi at his campaigns over the Rafale row.

On Saturday, Rahul Gandhi and his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who is a Congress General Secretary, tweeted on the controversy.

“Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth. – Lord Buddha,” Priyanka Gandhi tweeted, while her brother took a swipe at the Prime Minister using the hashtag “#RafaleScam”.

The BJP termed the Congress’s latest round of attacks over the Rafale deal as “lies”. “The way Rahul Gandhi is behaving, it will not be an exaggeration to say that he is being used as a pawn by competing companies. He has been lying right from the beginning on the issue. Probably, he is acting as an agent or some member of Gandhi family has been for a competing company,” BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra told reporters on Saturday.

Patra cited a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General and a Supreme Court verdict, both of which had found nothing wrong in the defence deal between India and France, to reject allegations of the Congress.

France’s Dassault Aviation had initially won a contract in 2012 to supply 126 jets to India and had been negotiating with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). Later, HAL was replaced by Reliance Group and a new contract for 36 jets was finalised. The announcement to buy the 36 jets was made in an India-France joint statement when PM Modi visited France in April 2015.

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