First batch of French-made Rafael jets to arrive in India in September
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First batch of French-made Rafael jets to arrive in India in September

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. Pakistan retaliated last Wednesday, saying it had shot down two Indian fighter jets that violated its airspace. Two days later, however, it released an Indian pilot it had captured as a “peace gesture.” India also said it had shot down a Pakistani fighter jet in the “aerial encounter.” Modi further said the Indian airstrike on the militant target could have had a different outcome if the air force had more modern fighter jets. The country has “felt the shortage of Rafale jets,” said Modi, “India is asking in one voice what could have happened if we had Rafale. First selfish policies and then politics over the Rafale deal have harmed the nation.” His remarks sparked anger among opposition figures, who asked Modi to explain about the delay in the delivery of the jets if they could have been so crucial in the fighting. “Dear PM, have you no shame at all?” said Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in a Twitter post. “You are solely responsible for the delay in the arrival of the Rafale jets.” The chief of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) Mayawati also blamed Modi to for the delay, saying, "Rafale fighter could have prove useful in fight against Pakistan, claims PM Modi in his rallies.” “Even then not a single Rafale inducted into IAF fleet during his government. Better explain people why this kind of lapse and neglect even by the BJP on the issue of country's safety and security?" she said in a tweet. India has long been engaged in a conflict with Pakistan over the disputed region of Jammu and Kashmir. The two have fought four wars since their partition in 1947, three of them over Kashmir. Pakistan is widely accused of arming and training militants. India, Pakistan trade fire at border in Kashmir After two days of relative calm on Line of Control (LoC) which divides Kashmir, troops from both sides of the border have reportedly exchanged heavy shelling and targeted each other’s positions on Monday, local sources reported. According to Indian defense officials, Pakistan initiated the “unprovoked ceasefire violation” by firing mortar shells and small arms on forward posts and villages. “Pakistan forces again resorted to heavy mortar shelling along LoC on Indian positions and civilian areas in Jammu district today, which was retaliated strongly and effectively,” said an official. “Indian Army retaliated strongly and effectively,” the spokesman said, adding there was no report of any casualty on the Indian side. On Sunday, more residents from near the LoC arrived at a camp for internally displaced people at Hattian Bala in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, according to Reuters. Pakistan to open airspace on Tuesday In the meantime, Pakistan said it resumed flights at more airports on Monday, but it postponed until Tuesday the reopening of its airspace nationwide. The closure of the airspace has left thousands of people stranded at the airports since last week. “Some airports are open,” said the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) spokesman, Mustafa Baig. Baig explained that airports in the capital Islamabad, the southern port of Karachi, and the cities of Lahore, Peshawar, Quetta and Faisalabad were partly functional.

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