Ambassador to India Bemoans Big Boeing Buy
France is not happy, and when France
is not happy the French Ambassador is not happy. In this case, the
French Ambassador to India, M. Dominique Girard, aired his
dissatisfaction to the Indian Express newspaper, specifically on
the subject of aircraft sales.
There is little nuance in the French message on India's recent
-- and upcoming -- aircraft buys. "We are surprised and
disappointed," the envoy said. He insisted that, compared to
Boeings, Airbus aircraft were better, available more quickly, and
preferred by Indian pilots; he argued that "some factors other than
commercial have played a role" in Air India's purchase of fifty
Those "factors" would presumably be political. While the US has
rewarded anti-terror war ally Pakistan for its support, it has also
responded to Indian overtures -- and significant behind-the-scenes
anti-terror cooperation -- by opening the possibility of joint or
license production of modern F-16 or F-18 fighters, and offering
the Indian defense industry other high-tech weapons.
That's important because the Indian
Air Force is now seeking 126 fighters, and the French have had the
inside track. One important factor -- which Girard doesn't mind
stressing -- is parts availability. The French are indifferent to
nonproliferation issues and international sanctions -- during the
war in Iraq, at least one US aircraft was downed by a French
missile made no earlier than October, 2002.
As strange as it sounds, France's cash-and-carry policy is
reassuring to some end users -- particularly those who fear the
possibility of US or international sanctions. India has first-hand
experience chafing under US sanctions, imposed when India pursued
nuclear weapons. The few US types in Indian inventory, such
as the Harrier and the SH-3 helicopter, faced severe parts crises
before the US quietly lifted sanctions last year (as reported in
Aero-News: " US, India Shake Hands On Spare
Girard noted that if the IAF
selected the French Dassault Mirage fighters it was considering, it
could count on a steady flow of spares, without regard for
international politics. "We never stop supplies in any condition,"
The decision the Indian Air Force will take is anybody's guess.
The IAF does have extensive experience with Russian and French
aircraft, and none with American combat planes, so the Dassault bid
probably still has advantages over the American alternatives.
But right now, the Quai d'Orsay is not happy... and Dominique
Girard is not happy.