Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh with his French counterpart Florence Parly at the Dassault Aviation plant in Merignac, France on Tuesday. -AP
Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh formally received the first Rafale fighter jet built for the Indian Air Force (IAF) in France on Tuesday. However, the first batch of jets will arrive in India only in May 2020.
"I am told that Rafale is a French word meaning gust of wind. I am sure the aircraft will live up to its name. I believe Rafale will boost India's air dominance exponentially to ensure peace and security in the region," Rajnath Singh said, speaking at the handover ceremony. He was handed over the first Indian aircraft, RB-001, by Dassault Aviation CEO Eric Trappier, reports The Hindu.
After the handing over, Rajnath Singh performed shastra puja on the aircraft on the occasion of Vijayadashami and also flew a sortie on it. Later, Rajnath Singh held the Annual Defence dialogue with his French counterpart Florence Parly, the Defence Ministry said.
Speaking to media after the sortie, Rajnath Singh said India is procuring the Rafales for self-defence and as a deterrent. "By February 2021 we will receive 18 Rafales and by April 2022 we will get all the 36 Rafales," he said. Earlier in the day, Rajnath Singh called on French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace.
The two leaders "comprehensively discussed key aspects of bilateral defence partnership and resolved to continue strengthening the ties between the two countries," a statement from the Defence Ministry said.
"I thanked President Macron for his strong support to further intensifying our strategic partnership, especially in the defence sector, with India and for our 'Make in India' initiatives," Rajnath Singh said after the meeting.Rajnath Singh later flew with Ms Parly to Merignac, where Dassault Aviation's Rafale final assembly facility is located, for the handing over ceremony.
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