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INDIA

India approves $2.4 billion French jet upgrade

India has approved a $2.4-billion deal for French defence groups to upgrade 51 ageing Mirage fighter jets, officials said Thursday, as the country takes further steps to boost its military capacity.

The long-delayed deal is part of a major modernisation programme being undertaken by India, which has become the biggest importer of military hardware among emerging nations as it enjoys rapid economic development.

“The defence secretary has agreed to the proposal put forward by French defence majors Dassault and Thales and (European group) MBDA for the Mirage-2000 retrofit,” a source in the Indian Air Force (IAF) told AFP.

The upgrade of the French-built Mirage jets is expected to include advanced navigation systems, mission computers, electronic warfare systems and radars.

The work is likely to take nine years and will see two of the Mirages being re-fitted in France, said the source who declined to be named.

Other aircraft will be upgraded at the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics base in Bangalore.

No confirmation of the deal was released by the Indian government, but the Press Trust of India news agency quoted a defence ministry official saying that the decision was cleared on Wednesday by the cabinet committee on security.

The overhaul of the fleet will add 20-25 years to the life of the Mirages, which were introduced to the Indian air force in the mid-1980s.

The deal had been stuck for five years due to differences over costs and the intended benefits to the IAF, which is also finalising a $12 billion deal to buy 126 new combat aircraft.

The IAF has argued that the Mirage upgrade was good value as it will transform the aircraft into cutting-edge combat fighters.

“The Mirage 2000 is the most important aircraft in the air force’s fleet after the Sukhoi-30,” former IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Fali Major told the Hindustan Times.

He said the upgrade was “crucial” as it would be years before the new planes from the planned $12 billion deal would be inducted.

India in February boosted military spending to 1.65 trillion rupees ($36 billion) for the financial year to March 2012 from 1.47 trillion rupees the previous year.

International consultancy firm KPMG estimates New Delhi will hand out military contracts worth $112 billion by 2016.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute think tank, India over the last five years was the world’s biggest importer of weapons.

The country is upgrading its million-plus military with hardware worth tens of billions of dollars because of its long-standing tensions with regional rivals China and Pakistan.

It has also begun honing homeland security since the 2008 attacks by Islamist gunmen which left 166 people killed in India’s financial capital Mumbai.

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INDIA

Where to celebrate Diwali in France in 2019

France’s Indian community will be hosting a number of Diwali events across the country in the last days of October.

Where to celebrate Diwali in France in 2019
Photo: AFP

If you’re looking to add a bit of spice and colour to an otherwise grey October in France, maybe a dose of Diwali is what you need. 

Diwali, also known as Deepavali, is a four to five day-long festival of lights which is celebrated mainly by Hindus every autumn, but also by Jains, Sikhs and some Buddhists.

This year it is estimated around a billion revellers across the globe will light candles outside their homes and at festivals to symbolise the spiritual victory of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance.

In France, where around 20,000 Indian citizens are officially registered, there will be a number of events in the final days of October to mark the occasion.

Nantes, Friday October 25th: More than 1,000 people are expected to take part in a Diwali celebration in the Loire-Atlantique city which will include concerts, talks and group meditation. The Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) and the city’s Sahaj Yoga meditation centre are organising the event.

Rennes, Saturday October 26th: Brittany will hold a multi-faceted Diwali celebration organised by its local Namasté Breizh association.

It will take place in the Rennes commune of Saint-Jacques-de-la-Lande (10 Rue Francois Mitterrand), starting at 5pm on Saturday with a concert by legendary bansuri (Indian flute) player Harsh Wardhan and then followed by classical and Bollywood dance routines, an organic vegetarian dinner for guests and a Indian dance party to cap it all off.

More info on tickets here.

Montpellier, Saturday October 26th and Sunday October 27th: The southern French city will hold a two-day Diwali music and dance festival with performances by more than 15 internationally renowned artists, kalbeliya and bhangra dance workshops, a dance competition and much more.

Find out more from organisers Natyamandir here

Paris, Saturday October 26th: Paris’s India House (Fondation Maison de l’Inde) has an interesting Diwali programme planned for the weekend.

Starting at 5pm on Saturday it will include a magic show, a Rajasthani Gypsy music and dance concert by the Anwar Khan Group, a fireworks display and a special Diwali dinner.

Paris, Wednesday, October 30th: If you missed earlier Diwali celebrations in the French capital, you can still head to the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall) on Wednesday for a grand event being organised by the Indian Embassy in Paris and GOPIO.

Visitors can expect a show of traditional Indian songs, music and dance, candlelit dinners and appetizers, and of course, fireworks.

READ MORE: In which parts of France do Indians live?


 

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