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Home / Politics / News /  Rafale to add to the strike capability of the IAF, says President Kovind  

New Delhi: The Indian Air Force would be inducting the French-built Rafale aircraft in the coming months, President Ram Nath Kovind said on Thursday, adding that his government believed that neglecting the country’s defence needs was detrimental to the interests of the country.

In his speech on the opening day of the last session of the Modi government’s current term in office, Kovind said the government had signed new agreements relating to the defence sector last year that included new purchases and indigenous production under the Make in India programme that have helped in “boosting the morale of the defence forces and increasing the country’s military self-reliance".

Kovind also referred to the 2016 surgical strikes in which Indian troops crossed the Line of Control de facto border into Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and took out some terrorist launch pads in the aftermath of the September 2016 Uri terrorist strike.

“In the international context, while India is a staunch supporter of friendly ties with all countries, there is also a need to constantly strengthen our capabilities to tackle any challenges. Through the surgical strike on cross-border terror posts, India has shown its new policy and strategy," Kovind said.

On Rafale, Kovind said that “after a gap of many decades, the Indian Air Force is preparing to welcome, in the coming months, its new generation ultra-modern fighter aircraft Rafale and strengthen its strike capability".

The reference to Rafale by President Kovind comes against the backdrop of opposition parties trying to corner the government on charges of supporting big business and helping them secure lucrative contracts as a spin-off in the Rafale fighter jet deal. The issue has been repeatedly raised by Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi in all his public speeches in the past year, especially in the run-up to the November state polls in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Mizoram, Chhattisgarh and Telangana and the winter session of Parliament.

The president’s reference to delays in acquisition of new defence hardware and slowing of modernization programmes could be seen as a swipe at the Congress party, which was heading a coalition government between 2004-2014 when the Rafale deal was first signed. But delays relating to the terms of manufacture in India with transfer of technology held up the contract. In 2015 the Modi government scrapped the pact signed in 2012 for 128 aircraft and instead decided to buy 36 aircraft in a fly-away condition.

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