BEIRUT, LEBANON (12:10 P.M.) – An official in New Delhi announced that the Indian Air Force conducted test flights of the new French Rafale fighters over the disputed border area with China.
A senior Indian air force official told AFP, requesting anonymity, that “Rafale combat aircraft conducted sorties to identify our areas of operations, including in Ladakh”, the Himalayan region in northern India on the border with China.
The Indian official did not say when the flights began, but an AFP photographer on Monday saw a Rafale fighter flying over Leh, the capital of the Ladakh region.
India acknowledges that China and other major countries are surpassing it in their military capabilities, and is including the purchase of French Rafale fighters as part of efforts to bolster its 1.4 million military, according to experts.
On September 10, the Indian Air Force officially received five of the 36 Rafale fighters that New Delhi bought from Paris, with a total value of $ 9.4 billion, in an event that Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh described as a “strong message” to his country’s opponents.
On June 15, a clash of hands, sticks and stones took place between Indian soldiers and others in the Ladakh region, resulting in the killing of at least 20 Indian soldiers. China admitted that its army had suffered some casualties, but it did not specify how many there were.
In early September the two sides witnessed the first shooting in the region in the past 45 years.
New Delhi’s announcement of these Rafale test flights comes at a time when the military leaders of the two countries are holding the last round of talks aimed at easing border tensions.