Tue, 06 Dec 2022

New Delhi [India], November 23 (ANI): After reports about China's headhunting of its military personnel last month, pressure is growing on Western countries for a probe against the reported recruitment of retired military officials from the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.

Last month, The New York Times (NYT) reported that China has hired nearly 30 retired British military pilots to train pilots in the People's Liberation Army.

Writing for Portal Plus publication, columnist Valerio Fabbri said pressure is increasing for investigation against reported recruitment of retired military officials from these countries by Chinese agents in South Africa.

"Taking a cue from the UK, which earlier discovered and initiated an investigation against such recruitments, Australian military is also investigating reports of its former pilots accepting training roles in China," he said.

In October, Britain's Defence Ministry issued a threat alert fearing that the practice could threaten its national security. The UK government also said it is working with allies to try to stop China's bid to recruit British pilots using third-party liaisons, which includes former members of the Royal Air Force and other armed forces.

"We are taking decisive steps to stop Chinese recruitment schemes attempting to head hunt serving and former U.K. Armed Forces pilots to train People's Liberation Army personnel in the People's Republic of China," a spokesman for the Defence Ministry, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, as quoted by NYT.

Beijing is reportedly hiring mostly pilots for contracts as lucrative as USD 270,000 a year, via a South African company Test Flying Academy of South Africa (TFASA).

Citing media reports, Fabbri said TFASA also runs a flight school for Chinese airline pilots in South Africa as a joint venture with one of China's largest state-owned aeronautic companies, AVIC.

Using TFASA, China targeted those with direct access to the latest, closely guarded, defence initiatives. Aside from UK, Australia has also launched probe into these reports.

Australia's Defence Minister Richard Marles said that he had asked for probe into claims that former Australian military pilots are being recruited by the South African flight school to work in China.

"I would be deeply shocked and disturbed to hear that there were personnel who were being lured by a paycheck from a foreign state above serving their own country," he was quoted as saying by Portal Plus. (ANI)

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