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`French jets patrolled Indo-Pak. coastline'

By Vaiju Naravane

PARIS JULY 3. For ten days at the height of the military standoff between India and Pakistan, French aero-naval forces created a buffer between the two belligerents, the French daily Liberation reported today.

For the first time, France's new combat aircraft, the hugely expensive Rafale, carried out missions of "combat air patrol'' from its base on board the newly refurbished aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, the newspaper said. Flying off the Indian and Pakistani coastline, these fighters "neutralised'' the zone, military experts told reporters.

Alongside Hawkeye spy planes, the French navy's Rafales participated in maritime and aerial surveillance in the Arabian Sea. With their dissuasive presence, the Rafales prevented Indian and Pakistani fighter planes from using the sea route to carry out incursions into each other's territory, as was their wont in the past, the report said.

In 1999, India had shot down a Pakistani Breguet Atlantic on a spy mission.

Armed with air-to-air missiles, the Rafales undertook several daily two-hour-long patrols in collaboration with the U.S. Navy's F 14s and F18s present in the region.

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