Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The French dis-connection


The Nuclear Security Conference ended in Washington on April 13 with a final communique comprising 12 points to ensure security of nuclear material and prevention of nuclear proliferation. Australia and France tried to influence the Summit by their respective suspensions of contracted material that was to be provided to Pakistan. In the time leading to the Nuclear Security Summit, the Australian Defence Minister John Faulkner employed a rarely used anti-WMD law, last used 14 years ago, that prevented GBC, an Australian manufacturer of scientific equipment, to export two contracted spectrophotometers to a Pakistani company. France, true to its traditional double dealing, duplicity and equivocation, put on hold the provision of $1.6 bn contract for provision of JF-17 Thunder aircraft parts in the same time-frame.

The Khaleej Times, in its publication of 2nd April 2010, quoted Reuters and Le monde as having reported that France had decided to suspend the sale of electronics and missiles — the first section of a six billion Euro contract — under pressure from India. Whether the French move was to appease India to win multi-billion dollar fighter aircraft deal or to force Pakistan to cancel the intended purchase of German-made 214 submarines and buy French made Agosta or Scorpene submarines instead, is yet to come to fore. Moreover, there is a possibility of US pressurising France that any technology provided to support the JF-17 Thunder aircraft fighter might be pirated across to China, an axiom that may not hold good any longer as China has crossed requisite technological barriers much earlier to be categorised as a dependable supplier of weaponry to the world. The latest demonstrations of China’s newest aircraft, J-10, in front of defence attaches is a testament of its technological ascendancy in the region.

While most reports that appeared in the press, including that of Reuters, say that the suspension of sale of high tech equipment o Pakistan attributed to the latter’s inability to pay for the deal and pressure from India despite the fact that New Delhi has reportedly conveyed to the French authorities that it is no more interested in purchasing more submarines from France. However, the bait for purchase of high tech aircraft is still dangling. The French ambassador in India had made it clear to a meeting of French companies during a dinner at the recently concluded DEFEXPO-2010 that France faces tough competition in India and they need to work hard and stick together to win it big in India. It has worked already as the specially constituted Indian price committee has reportedly given a go ahead to sign a contract worth $2.2 billion for upgradation of 52 Mirage-2000 aircraft held in its inventory by France. The formal signing will take place during French President Sarkozy’s visit to New Delhi later in the year.

Despite defence relations between Pakistan and France spanning over forty years, the military relationship between two countries has seen lots of highs and lows, though lows have been observed more than often. The reliability of France as a dependable supplier of contracted material to Pakistan places it at number two after the United States that has also turned its back on defence contracts signed with Pakistan a bit too often. Cancellation of F-16 aircraft deal, holding on to millions of dollars paid by the government for purchase of the aircraft and then finally compensating Pakistan with wheat, is one of such episodes.

It was the 70s when the French backtracked from a commitment and cancelled a nuclear reprocessing plant that had been signed between the two countries. The move had incurred a heavy financial loss on the country as Pakistan had already spent Rs 5 billion plus on the civil works besides procurement of some related components in advance of the then would be reprocessing plant. We again saw another backtracking of France from another nuclear deal that was signed between the French government and Mohtarma Benazir’s government for the provision of 600 MW nuclear powerplant. Then it was 1999 when the French government crudely did not allow for 15 days the Pakistani submarine PNS Khalid, the one paid fully for, to sail out from its port of Toulon. That probably was the darkest hour of the relationship between the two countries. Had it not been the company that manufactured the submarine which refused to bear the incurring costs for holding the submarine, the stalemate might have continued for some time more. Then came the backtracking from Mistral missile deal for the Pakistan Air Force. Latest in the series of duplicity, especially with respect to Pakistan, has been the hold up of military hardware for Pakistan’s JF-17 Thunder aircraft. Though the country remains grateful for whatever hardware it provided and continues to provide but one feels that France should have come out more clearly on the subject rather than making statements that carried dual messages with respect to the latest back tracking on yet another deal.

Notwithstanding the global acknowledgement of Pakistan’s role in the war on terror, the rhetoric from across the eastern borders continues to belittle Pakistan. Thanks God, the world has come to realise somewhat the game behind such rhetoric. The West eyes to benefit from India’s decade-old huge allocations for buying military and nuclear hardware and in the process India manages to successfully exploit their desire to win contracts to blackmail them on Pakistan related issues. So a little bit pampering does not bring any harm to nobody. Barrack Obama’s reality check on Pakistan’s safe nuclear programme is enough to clear the murky perceptions whoever had tried to exploit it in the past.

The apparent surrendering to the Indian blackmail (interestingly visiting Indian blogs congratulating the government on successful blocking the sale of hardware to Pakistan can be found in abundance on the internet) on its offer of refurbishment of its aging Mirage-2000 worth billions of dollars saddens a large segment of Pakistani society that keeps a watch on various defence related business developments in the region. By traditional backtracking on supply of equipment and other hardware, France loses its stature as a neutral or political sovereign nation that has policies of its own.

France, a country that has always been held in the high esteem by Pakistani diaspora, needs to do more on its status as a dependable supplier of contracted hardware or else it risks the chances to be categorised as a time serving supplier and friend. France is too important a country for Pakistan wherein the latter always values its ties with it. These ties must prosper for the benefit of both the countries. Both the countries are scheduled to engage each other at the highest level in the second half of the year.

Prime Minister Gilani’s visit dates to France are being rescheduled and President Sarkozy is scheduled to visit Pakistan this autumn wherein cooperation in civil nuclear energy between the countries would be outlined. The French president’s visit may be tied up with his visit to India, which as per Indian Ministry of External Affairs spokesman, is scheduled for the last quarter of this year.

5 comments:

Yes the french tech will automatically transfer to china, if its supplied to pak.Due to chinese copying habbit hits pakistan upgradation which is much needed to PAF.

Oh! Did it pain?

People living in glass houses..eh.

Know how India felt when pakistan with its susu blocked UNSC permanent seat.

@ Venu ,
i am ( CSK ) super kings , i am saying about coping bad mind of chinese habbit effects pak ,not supporting to pak , due to pak feels chinks weapons are not quality wise equal to west .

Su 30
tell me one thing if reverse engineering is so bad why are ur services chiefs also saying to do RE????

Hi Su30, my above comment is not in reply to urs. A general one.

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