With the relationship between France and Pakistan taking a nosedive following Imran Khan’s verbal attack against the French President Emmanuel Macron for taking action against radical separatist Islamists, France has decided against upgrading Pakistan’s fleet of Mirage fighter jets, air defence systems and the Agosta 90B class submarines.
According to a report published in Hindustan Times, France has also reportedly asked Qatar to not allow Pakistani-origin personnel to work on the fighter jets, fearing that they will leak the technical details of the aircraft. Qatar is another country besides India which owns French-made Rafale jets.
The decision by Paris to not upgrade the Mirage III and Mirage 5 fighter jets could bear a huge impact on the Pakistani Air Force which has about 150 Mirage fighter aircraft manufactured by the French organisation Dassault Aviation. However, only half of them are serviceable. As per diplomats in New Delhi and Paris, Pakistan had requested France for upgrades to keep fighter jets in the air. However, the request was declined, one of the diplomats said.
Another request from Pakistan to upgrade its Agosta 90B class submarines with air-independent propulsion (AIP) systems that would allow them to stay underwater for a longer duration has also been turned down by France. Pakistan has three Agosta 90B submarines: Khalid, Saad and Hamza.
Earlier this month, France took a stern decision of revoking the visitor visas of 183 Pakistani nationals, including kins of Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the erstwhile chief of Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI. Besides, France had also forcibly deported 118 Pakistanis.
France is not the only one who had come down hard against Pakistan. Earlier, German Chancellor Angel Merkel had passed up a similar request for supply of the AIP system to upgrade submarine in Pakistan’s inventory because of its role in promoting terror, most notably in Islamabad’s failure in cooperating with Germany in identifying the perpetrators of the truck bomb attack on the Germany Embassy in Kabul in May 2017.
Pakistan tangles with France over President Macron’s strident criticism of radical Islam
The retributory action taken against Pakistan is believed to be grounded in Pakistan PM Imran Khan’s vigorous criticism of French President Emmanuel Macron over the latter’s comments on radical Islam in the wake of the gruesome killing of a teacher in the Parisian suburb.
Samuel Paty, a teacher in a school in Paris, was brutally beheaded by an Islamist for reproducing the Charlie Hebdo published Prophet Muhammad’s caricatures in his classroom. Days after his death, Macron paid a tribute to the deceased teacher, claiming that Paty epitomised the French secularism and Freedom of Speech which they would continue to uphold.
Macron spoke against the extremism bred by the radical Islam and stressed the need for developing an “Islam of Enlightenment”. Simultaneously, French authorities initiated crackdown against certain mosques and deported individuals they deemed were involved in extremist activities in France.
Macron also defended the right to caricature, stating, “right to caricature is an essential part of being French”.
Macron’s remark critiquing radical Islam had stirred a furore in Muslim countries, whose leaders wasted no time in launching an attack against the French President. Turkish authoritarian ruler Recep Erdogan questioned Macron’s mental fitness. Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad posted a long series of tweets rationalising the killing of Paty over blasphemy.
Imran Khan trained guns against Macron for his defence of caricatures of Prophet Muhammad
Pakistani PM Imran Khan too justified the beheading of Samuel Paty during his address at UNGA. In a video statement at UNGA, he tried to justify what has happened in France and said, “The Prophet lives in our hearts. When he is ridiculed, when he is insulted, it hurts… We human beings understand one thing: The pain of the heart is far, far, far more hurtful than physical pain. And that’s why the Muslims react to this.”
In a tweet later, he said, “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 & marginalisation that inevitably leads to radicalisation.”
However, Khan did not stop just there. In a bid to appear as the leading light of the Muslim Ummah, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan intensified his attack against the Western countries, especially against France, by releasing a statement wherein he issued a clarion call to the Muslim leaders in the world to take note of the “growing Islamophobia” in the non-Muslim states.