The Indian Air Force chief's statement that the induction of the Dassault Rafale will give the fleet teeth is heartening, but is not a great revelation. Any fourth or fifth generation fighter like the Swedish Viggens,the American F16s or the Russian Sukhois, for example, would provide the much-delayed dental upgrade. Nobody makes bad fighter planes in what is a highly competitive category.
More importantly, Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa's observation is mutually exclusive from the inordinate delay in getting the first 36 aircraft and also the dust that has been raised by the Opposition parties. Therefore, any effort to link the air chief's clean chit to sanitising the purchase of scandal is pointless.
Any military expert will confirm that if a four-star officer was to say the choice is a poor one, that would make news. Putting an in-house seal of approval after a three-year foot drag is not really a newsworthy initiative unless it comes as a diktat to quieten the uncomfortable questioning that intensified in August with Congress president Rahul Gandhi challenging Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in an unseemly and undergraduate fashion to respond to the accusations of malfeasance in the purchase. As a deflection, it's a fragile effort because one would jolly well hope the government and the air force chose correctly.