Pakistani Prime Minister imran khan
In what is being seen as a direct fallout of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan's criticism of French President Emmanuel Macron over his defence of the right to mock religion, the French government has decided against helping Pakistan upgrade its fleet of Mirage fighter jets, Hindustan Times has reported quoting people familiar with the matter.
According to the report, not only has France declined to upgrade Pakistan's fleet of Mirage fighter jets, but it has also decided against upgrading the country's air defence system and Agosta 90B class submarines.
Moreover, keeping India's interests in mind, the French government has also told Qatar, one of the countries which has bought the Rafale fighter jets, to not allow Pakistan-origin technicians near it, considering they could leak the information to Pakistan since Rafale is the front-line fighter of India.
The report says that India's foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla was informed about the French government's decisions during his visit to Paris on October 29. France also let India know that it is very sensitive to India's security concerns with regards to Rafale, and is taking steps to ensure that the Pakistani technicians are kept away from it.
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According to the report, France's decision to not upgrade the Mirage III and Mirage 5 fighter jets will severely impact the Pakistan Air Force (PIA). This is because out of the 150 Mirage fighter jets - manufactured by French firm Dassault Aviation- that the PIA has, only half are serviceable.
Moreover, Pakistan has been buying Mirage jets for decades, even though some of them have been discarded by other countries. Pakistan refurbishes these old jets to keep them flying.
Sources told the newspaper that while Pakistan had recently requested France for upgrades to keep these fighter jets in the air, that request has been declined.
France is not the only country which has declined Pakistan's defence-related requests. Earlier, the German government, too, had turned down Islamabad's request for supply of the AIP systems to upgrade its submarines.
Khan had crticised Macron, stating that the "hallmark of a leader is he unites human beings" and "this is a time when Pres [President] Macron could have put healing touch and denied space to extremists".
"Through encouraging the display of blasphemous cartoons targeting Islam and our Prophet, by attacking Islam, clearly without having any understanding of it, President Macron has attacked and hurt the sentiments of millions of Muslims in Europe and across the world," Khan had said on Twitter.
This had come after Macron criticised Islamists and vowed not to “give up cartoons” depicting Prophet Muhammad.
On its part, India had backed Macron. On October 28, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), in a strongly-worded statement, condemned the terrorist attack that took the life of a French teacher and asserted that there is no justification for terrorism for any reason or under any circumstance.
The MEA also backed Macron, stating that India “strongly deplores the personal attacks in unacceptable language” on the French president. The foreign ministry called the personal attacks a “violation of the most basic standards of international discourse”.