New Delhi: Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has landed in France on Tuesday to receive the first of the 36 Rafale fighter jets on behalf of the Indian Air Force (IAF).
“Bonjour Paris! Delighted to be in France. This great nation is India’s important strategic partner and our special relationship goes far beyond the realm of formal ties. My visit to France is aimed at expanding the existing strategic partnership between both the countries”, tweeted Rajnath as he reached France for three-day visit. He also extended wishes to IAF on its 87th birth anniversary.
Meanwhile, before heading to Merignac airbase near Bordeaux, the Defence Minister will meet French President Emmanuel Macron.
Here’s a list of things to be expected from Defence Minister’s 3-day visit to France:
Rajnath Singh will also perform the “Shastra Puja” –(worship of arms) while accepting first of the 36 Rafale fighter jets. Notably, Shastra Pooja is an old Hindu tradition where warriors perform pooja of their arms and weapons. “During his days as Home Minister, Rajnath Singh would perform Shastra pooja every Dushehra. Now as a defence Minister also, he would continue the tradition,” Defence officials close to Rajnath said. Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his days as chief minister also used to perform Shastra pooja on every Dushehra of both ancient and modern arms.
The handover will coincide with Dussehra as well as the 87th Indian Air Force Day. Taking to micro-blogging site Twitter, the Defense Minister said,”Greetings to all IAF personnel and their families on the 87th IAF Day. The IAF is the shining example of exemplary courage, fortitude, determination and impeccable service to our nation. These men and women in Blue have the ability to touch the sky with grit and glory.”
The Union Minister will fly a sortie on a Rafale aircraft when he formally receives the first aircraft . “Raksha Mantri will participate in the Rafale fighter aircraft handing over ceremony at Merignac along with French minister of Armed Forces Florence Parly,” a ministry of defence spokesperson said. “He will also perform the Shastra Puja on the auspicious occasion of Vijayadashami and fly a sortie in the Rafale fighter aircraft, the spokesperson said.
The Defence Minister will also meet French President Emanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace in the French capital. He will be accompanied by newly-appointed vice chief of Air Staff, air marshal HS Arora. Singh will reach Paris on Monday, October 7.
A day later on Wednesday, Rajnath will meet heads of the French defence industry. He is also expected to hold annual defence dialogue with the French Minister of Armed Forces.
He will also address CEOs representing leading French defence industry enterprises. As part of a wider ‘Make in India’ message, Singh will invite them to participate in the DefExpo to be held in Lucknow from February 5 to 8 next year.
Notably, India had signed a deal with the French government and Dassault Aviation in September 2016, to acquire 36 Rafale fighter jets for over 7.8 billion euros to arrest the fall of combat squadrons and meet urgent requirements on the eastern and western fronts.