France has refused to provide the technical know-how needed for upgradation of Mirage fighter jets in Pakistan Air Force (PAF). It has also refused to help it upgrade its air defence system and three of its Agosta 90B class submarines. Thus, after the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which has stopped visas for Pakistanis, it is now clearly the turn of France to turn the screws on Imran Khan-led Pakistan.
PAF has around 150 Mirage in its inventory out of which about 75 are considered serviceable. France’s refusal to come to the aid of Islamabad can weaken its armed forces. It is in no position to buy new advanced hardware from other international sellers given the poor state of its economy.
Not only this, France has also told Qatar, which has bought Rafale fighter aircraft, to keep the Pakistani-origin technicians away from them. It needs to be mentioned here that in the past, Pakistan has often surreptitiously shared technical details of military hardware with China. Some aircraft built by China are reportedly “inspired” by the military technology of third nations in service with PAF.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel had earlier refused to help Pakistan upgrade its submarines. This had been done for non-cooperation from Islamabad in the inquiry into truck bomb attack on German Embassy in Kabul in May 2017. Some other European countries are also considering some steps against Pakistan under the aegis of European Union (EU).
The EU is a major benefactor of Islamabad in terms of foreign aid and any possible cutting off the aid, or scaling it down, can have a major negative impact on doddering economy of Pakistan. It is already facing problems in servicing its loans taken from many different countries and International institutions.
Asylum requests from Pakistanis are also being closely scrutinized by Paris due to downturn in the relationship between the two countries. This was triggered by stabbing of two persons by Pakistani youth Ali Hassan on a Paris street. Magazine Charlie Hebdo was located in that area earlier but has moved to a different location now.
A video from Pakistan had gone viral internationally after this September stabbing incident. In the video, Hassan’s father is seen telling a journalist that he was proud of what his son had done. This has shocked the French citizens as also other Europeans.
France’s refusal to help Pakistan upgrade its military hardware is actually rooted in Imran Khan’s recent criticism of President Emmanuel Macron. The French President had condemned the beheading of a teacher Samuel Paty by an Islamist zealot. He had also said that he was committed to upholding the values of freedom of speech, including criticism or lampooning of religions.
Imran had accused Macron of promoting “Islamophobia” in a direct attack. Turkish President Recep T. Erdogan and Malaysian lesser Mahathir Mohamad had also issued hard hitting statements against Macron. The repeated attacks by the troika of Imran, Erdogan and Mahathir against the French President have not helped matters.
During his visit to Paris in October-end, Foreign Secretary of India Harsh Vardhan Shringla was conveyed the decisions of the French government. New Delhi had clearly stood by Macron and issued public statements of support in the aftermath of beheading of the teacher and criticism of Macron.
A couple of days ago, Pakistan government had said that it will boycott French products henceforth. This was done by Imran government to buy peace with hardline Islamist group Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan. Tehreek leaders had said that these assurances were given in a signed document by a federal minister.