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6 Questions That Remain Unanswered As India Purchases France’s Rafale Jets

By Krishnat Arun:

India has made it to Mars. The others who have done the same are US, Russia and Europe. Not even China. Now, if one can make it to the Mars, you would think that one might also be able to build their own fighter planes. Why the government would choose to pay INR 1600 crore per piece for the Rafale fighter jets, when we’ve made it to Mars in less than Rs. 7 per kilometre, is beyond me.

But apart from that, the Rafale deal indeed raises some pertinent questions:

1. France As Our ‘Ally’

When you have neighbors like China and Pakistan, you’ve to maintain your war or peacetime alliances. In this case, when was the last time the French supported an Indian war? Was it the 1962 war against the Chinese or the three wars (1965, 1971, 1999) against Pakistan? Does France support India’s claim on Aksai Chin or the PoK or any contentious issues that has an international watch on it? Apart from that, has this deal taken us in some kind of a pact that in the time of war, France would come to support India?

2. France As A ‘Wartime Hero’

The most brutal wars the world has seen are World Wars I and II. France has been among the countries that faced the worst brutalities, defeats and occupations during World War I. Britain, US, Canada and New Zealand  had to come to its rescue. They were defeated at the earliest by the Germans during World War II. They have never won any modern day military conflicts. All their lives, the French have tried being better than the British. At times they have succeeded – but in the fields of arts and literature, not wars. Their might as an international power during military conflicts is highly questionable.

3. Rafale As A Wartime Expert Fighter Plane

Post World War II, European countries have rarely been to wars on an individual capacity. The Americans have met their ‘enemies’ in the field and in the sky but France has not done the same by itself. It’s a NATO ally. So when countries like Syria and Libya are bombarded in the name of war against terror and for democracy, planes like Rafale participate in that. Now, these countries either don’t have the capacity to meet these planes in the air or say most of these don’t have a proper Air Force. In this case, the excellence of the Rafale jets we have bought, has inadvertently been to kill civilians in these countries and at times they have managed to kill terrorists as well. Its effectiveness is still up for debate.

4. Losing Russia – Our All-Weather Ally – For France?

India is building 5th generation fighter planes with Russia. Before the 1999 Kargil conflict, when the country got the arms and artillery support from Israel for the first time, the only major country to support India in the time of war, has been Russia. Be it militarily or diplomatically, the country has been on India’s side. No doubt, it had its own interest (but then everyone has). Now, when the country has had sanctions placed on it by the US and the West (including France) for annexing Crimea from Ukraine and when its economy has dipped by a 0.3 percentage point, did India ever think that its most trusted ally can slide to Pakistan? Russia, for the first time, has had a joint military drill with Pakistan. For the respect of India and for its concerns, it changed the venue of the drill which earlier was Gilgit-Baltistan, which is a matter of dispute between India, China and Pakistan. It’s important to ask, whether or not we’re letting go of an important ally after buying the Rafale jets?

5. ‘Make In India’

PM Modi is quite ambitious about his ‘Make in India’ campaign. Imagine if the amount that we had spent buying 36 Rafale jets, would have been invested in boosting the research and development, and manufacturing the indigenous Tejas, what would the result have been. The arguments against it can be that we need fighter planes as the Indian Air Force is short of it, but we’re not in a war-like situation. We could have funded our indigenous product Tejas but we didn’t.

6. The Ambani Factor

Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar said that India would buy 126 planes for INR 90,000 crores. This made the cost of a single Rafale, INR 715 crore, which after the finalisation of the deal, reached INR 1600 crore. It is important to note that Anil Ambani is a business partner with the makers of the Rafale jets and benefits quite a lot from this deal.

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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Find out more about the campaign here.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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