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Pakistani sources reject ‘fake news’ of France decision on defense system

France has decided not to upgrade Pakistan's defense systems of French origin, as a retaliatory measure against PM Imran Khan's remarks, India media claims

Pakistani sources on Saturday dismissed fake and misleading reports in the Indian media that claimed that France had decided not to upgrade air defense systems for Islamabad after a blasphemy row between the two countries.

Hindustan Times, quoting sources, had reported earlier on 20 November, that in retaliation to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s criticism of French President Emmanuel Macron’s remarks on Islam, France had decided not to upgrade Pakistan’s fighter jets Mirage III and Mirage 5.

These reports however have been refuted by defense sources in Pakistan. The news story circulating on Indian media is missing key details, these sources say, adding that all Mirages are locally upgraded, as France had already cut off support in early 2000.

Submarines bought from France already possessed a full transfer of technology, they note. They have since been upgraded in Turkey with US-made equipment.

The Indian newspaper claimed that “Foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla was told about the French government’s decisions vis-a-vis Pakistan when he visited Paris on October 29.” But neither the French foreign ministry nor the Indian foreign secretary have issued any such statement.

The article also mentions that the French told the Qatari government not to allow Pakistani-origin technicians to work on their Rafale fighter jets in case they leaked information back to Pakistan. But once again no such statement has been issued by the French foreign ministry or the Qataris.

PM Imran had earlier criticized the French President on taking a hardline towards French Muslims. He had said last month on Twitter that leaders did not divide nations, but united them, taking a swipe at Macron and his remarks on Islam.

“Hallmark of a leader is he unites human beings, as Mandela did, rather than dividing them. This is a time when Pres Macron could have put healing touch & denied space to extremists rather than creating further polarisation & marginalization that inevitably leads to radicalization,” he said in reference to publication of blasphemous cartoons in France.

Hybrid warfare – Leaking false information into public Sphere

The story started circulating after Moneycontrol.com published the news. Moneycontrol.com is an Indian website owned by E-EIGHTEEN Dot Com Ltd., a subsidiary of the media house TV18.

Pakistan updates Mirages at Kamra, does not rely on France’s defense tech

According to sources, there are no current upgrade contracts for Mirage-III/V in service with Pakistan Air Force from France, rather ROSE upgrades by Kamra have pretty much stripped French subsystems from Mirages.

Project ROSE (Retrofit Of Strike Element was a program initiated by the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) at the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex is used for the upgrades of the military avionics and electronics system of its aging Mirage fighter jets.

The Mirage Rebuild Factory was established at the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) in 1978, and in the years since has saved “billions” of dollars for Pakistan, according to sources.

Indian media attributes report to Paris diplomat

The Hindustan Times newspaper claimed that a diplomat in Paris told the Indian daily that Pakistan’s request to upgrade fighter jets has been declined. According to the HT report, a similar request for upgrading the French-Italian air defense system was also been denied.

Pakistan had requested to upgrade its Agosta 90B class submarines with air-independent propulsion (AIP) systems, this has also been rejected by France.

India had always been opposed to French arms being exports to Pakistan. Back in 2011 then Defence Minister A.K. Antony conveyed New Delhi’s disquiet over the sale of French defence systems to Pakistan to French Defence Minister Gerard Longuet.

“[India’s] concern about weapon sales [by France to Pakistan] was raised… the military equipment is for electronic communication interception… we have discouraged any requirement for naval equipment,” Mr. Longuet had said later.

Read more: France accuses Russia, Turkey of feeding hostility in Africa

Pakistan Air Force has about 150 Mirage fighter jets manufactured by the French firm Dassault Aviation and its navy has three Agosta 90B submarines: Khalid, Saad, and Hamza.

The Indian newspaper article also claimed that “Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel had earlier turned down a similar request for supply of the AIP systems to upgrade submarines in Pakistan’s inventory due to its role in promoting terror.” But Pakistan has an active Naval Aviation defence contract with German defence companies since 2015.

France’s decision not to upgrade defense will hit Pakistan hard?

“France’s decision to not upgrade the fighter jets and submarines is going to hit the Pakistan defense forces hard and the government harder, which was going to agree to the demands of boycotting French goods. Will Pakistan now boycott the French goods?”

“This could deal a deadly blow to cash strapped nation Pakistan. Pakistan survives with the grace of western countries which provides modern systems at low cost.”

Read more: Putin defends Karabakh deal after France criticism

Indian Media reported the news as an end-all for Pakistan, but what does this decision really mean for Pakistan?

Pakistan has about 150 Mirage fighter jets in service but all of them are expected to be replaced by newer JF-17s a Chinese-made fighter by 2030. The decision may hurt Pakistan somewhat immediately but in the long run, losing France’s defense upgrades may hold no consequences.

Especially considering that France already had cut off support nearly two decades ago.

Last year as well, citing the “close nature of the defense relationship between Pakistan and China,” aerospace expert Douglas Barrie, with the International Institute for Strategic Studies, revealed that sourcing a Chinese system “has considerable attraction (for Pakistan), not least of all in potentially being able to plug into any future developments China might have.”

Islamophobia on the rise in France

French President Macron has demanded that French Muslims adhere to a “charter of republican values,” which has been described as a large clampdown on Muslims in France.

Earlier this week, he gave the French council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) a 15-day deadline to accept the charter. The CFCM has since then agreed to create a National Council of Imams, which will as per reports, be able to issue imams with official credentials, credentials that can officially be withdrawn.

Muslims in France have also been asked to avoid “foreign interference” and irrevocably state that Islam is not a political movement.

Late on Wednesday, the president and his interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, met eight CFCM leaders at the Élysée Palace.

A more recent 2015 study called “Anti-Muslim Discrimination in France: Evidence from a Field Experiment” by the same author reached a consensus among experts on Islam in France and beyond that anti-Muslim discrimination works as a catalyst in the radicalization process.

There is widespread discrimination against Muslims and non-white races in France and the European Union as per the same report.

GVS News Desk