With the arrival of the first five Rafale jet fighters at Ambala airbase in India, the Indian Air Force has got what it described as a ‘game changer’, after a long delay of twenty years. This has come at a time when India has launched a multi-pronged strategy to counter Chinese aggression on the Ladakh border. Early induction of Rafale fighters is just one dimension of the overall strategy that is being worked out on technological and business fronts.
China, which is India’s biggest supplier of bulk drug formulations and medical equipment, has threatened to cut off or reduce supplies to India in retaliation to the ban imposed on Chinese companies from securing government contracts. In response, the Modi government on Monday announced several schemes to make India self-reliant in the pharma and medical equipment sector. But, first, let’s talk about Rafale.
The five Rafale jets that took off on Monday from Merignac airbase in Bordeaux, France, were piloted by our own trained IAF men. The jets had a halt at Al Dhafra airbase in Abu Dhabi on Monday night, before reaching Ambala, thus completing a distance of nearly 7,000 kilometers. These five jets will form part of the newly formed Golden Arrows squadron. Ten Rafale fighter jets are ready in France, out of which five have been delivered. A total of 36 Rafale jets were bought from France four years ago by the Modi government, and more IAF pilots are presently undergoing training. The delivery of all 36 jets will be complete by next year-end.
The Rafale has an in-built radar that can trace an enemy plane from 200 km away. The radar can track 40 targets at a time and can engage eight enemy aircraft simultaneously. The Rafale jet is fitted with M-88 engine, that carries a horsepower equivalent to 100 automobiles. It can carry bombs and missiles weighing more than 9,000 kg at a time and has a maximum speed of 2,200 km per hour.
India has decided to fit Rafale jets with Hammer (short for Highly Agile Modular Munition Extended Range) missiles that can destroy strong bunkers and shelters. The Hammer missile is three metre long and weighs 330 kg. It is GPS controlled and has infra-red technique. The missile can engage a target vertically too.
Along with Hammer missile, the Rafale will also have a Storm Shadow Cruise missile, which has a range of 550 km, twice the range of a BrahMos missile. This missile can target almost the whole of Pakistan and Chinese airbases in western Tibet. The Rafale is fitted with weapons in such a manner that the jet need not cross enemy lines to deliver the missile.
The Rafale will also be fitted with Meteor missile, one of the deadliest Beyond Visual Range air-to-air missiles, with a target range of 150 km. In other words, it can target enemy fighter planes the moment they take off from their airbases. The Rafale can also target places inside the Xinjiang province of China with SCALP missile, which has a range of 300 km.
The induction of Rafale jets will surely boost the morale of Indian Air Force at a time when its MiGs, Sukhois and Mirages are patrolling the skies on the Ladakh border, keeping watch on Chinese troop movements. However, it may take at least two months’ time for the Rafale jets to fully integrate with operational preparations, according to some official sources.
On the technological front, India on Monday banned 47 clones of 59 Chinese apps which were already banned by the government. The Chinese companies tried to bypass the ban by launching clones of their apps, like TikTok Lite, Helo Lite, Shareit Lite etc. These clones were violating privacy laws and stealing data from Indian citizens.
The Indian government is now formulating a stringent law to regulate download and use of apps in India so that vital data relating to Indians are not smuggled to foreign countries. On Monday, the government said, the 47 clones were being banned because they were ‘prejudicial to sovereignty, integrity and security of India’.
On the pharmaceutical front, Modi government on Monday decided to counter the Chinese threat to stop the export of bulk drug formulations, by launching ‘atmanirbharta’ (self-reliance) schemes. Medical devices parks and bulk drug parks will be set up inside India and production-linked incentives will be given.
The government has set up a Rs 3,000 crore fund to help firms manufacturing raw material for 53 critical bulk drugs. The Centre has earmarked Rs 3,420 crore for giving five-year incentives intending to promote domestic manufacture of drugs. For setting up four medical parks, the Centre will give Rs 100 crore funding for each of the parks. In all, the Centre will invest Rs 14,000 crore to promote domestic manufacture of bulk drug formulations. The Centre expects Rs 78,000 crore investments from other sources in this sector, as it will provide jobs to more than 2.5 lakh people.
Meanwhile, the Home Ministry is closely scrutinizing nearly 200 investment proposals from Chinese companies that have sought security clearance. This follows new rules notified in April this year which makes prior government approval mandatory for FDI from countries that share a land border with India.
The Modi government has effectively cornered China on three major fronts – defence, technology and business. China will have to bear the costs of border transgressions and treacherous attack on Indian jawans. The question is: why is China belligerent towards other countries?
In the South China Sea, China is at loggerheads with many South East Asian countries, it is artificially creating islands in the seas in order to lay territorial claim on waters, it is crushing democracy in Hong Kong despite appeals from major world powers, and it has started a front against India by transgressing on the Ladakh border.
Major world powers today stand with India on the LAC standoff issue. The reasons behind Chinese belligerence can be found from the measures taken by Chinese President Xi Jinping, who wants to strengthen his hand on the Chinese Communist Party and People’s Liberation Army. Towards this end, he wants to project China as a supreme world power ready to take on the other big powers.
Probably the Chinese strategists advising Xi are unaware that the world order is changing fast. The US has hardened its stand against China. It has closed down the Chinese consulate in Houston on charges of espionage. Big powers like the UK, Germany and Australia are also with the US, and they hold China accountable for the spread of COVID-19 pandemic. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is part of this lineup of frontline world leaders who are taking a tough stand against China.
When China carried out border transgressions, it never accounted for Modi’s steel will and the fighting capability of our jawans. Now that it is engaged in a standoff with India, China is trying to find an honourable retreat, so that its honour remains intact and it can wiggle out from the crisis which it has itself created.
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