Malaysia is actively looking to replace its ageing fleet of Royal Malaysian Air Force’s fighter jets. The main contenders include Indian HAL Tejas, China-Pakistan’s JF-17, South Korea’s T-50 Golden Eagle, Russian YAK-130, BAE Systems’ armed Hawk and the Swedish Gripen.
The Indian Government has been aggressively pitching the HAL Tejas which is a single-engine, delta wing, multirole light fighter designed by the Aeronautical Development Agency and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. It came from the Light Combat Aircraft programme, which began in the 1980s to replace India’s ageing MiG-21 fighters.
However, the past few months have witnessed a cold duel between the two countries when the Narendra Modi-led Government removed the special status of Jammu and Kashmir on Aug 5.
Malaysia joined Pakistan, Turkey and China in raising the Kashmir issue at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), with its Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad accusing India of “invading and occupying Kashmir.
Mahathir said “there may be reasons for this action but it is still wrong. The problem must be solved by peaceful means. India should work with Pakistan to resolve this problem. Ignoring the UN would lead to other forms of disregard for the UN and the Rule of Law”.
The statement by Malaysian PM created furore in India with many netizens calling for Boycott Malaysia. Indian Narendra Modi replied to this by calling it an internal matter and criticising countries that have spoken out against the move.
Additionally, India’s top oil trade body asked its members to stop buying Malaysian palm oil after what Mahathir said at the U.N. General Assembly. India is one of the biggest buyers of Malaysian palm oil and Indian boycott could have a severe impact on the Malaysian economy.
However, defence sources mentioned in one of the reports that Malaysia has shown interest in the Tejas in the past too, its air force is now likely to issue a request for proposal (RFP) for the new contract next year.
Sources said HAL, according to thePrint, will respond to the RFP as and when it’s issued to them. Asked what version of the Tejas they will be pitching for, the sources said the proposal will depend on the Malaysian Air Force’s requirements.