Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, who arrived in France earlier today to receive the first Rafale jet, on behalf of the Indian Air Force, is expected to perform ‘Shastra Puja’ on the occasion of Dussehra, undertake a sortie in the aircraft and meet French President Emmanuel Macron during his three-day visit to the European country.
On his arrival in Paris, Singh tweeted, “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 countries.”
Before going to Bordeaux, Singh will meet French President Macron where the two countries will discuss a wide range of issues at 1.30 p.m. on today noon.
At Merignac, a suburb of the south-western French town of Bordeaux, the Defence Minister will receive the first Rafale combat aircraft manufactured for India bearing the tail number RB-01, which is the initial of new Air Force Chief Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria who played a crucial role in the signing of the biggest ever defence deal of India worth above Rs 60,000 crore. The Rafale jet handover ceremony is scheduled to take place at 4.45 p.m.
The ceremony coincides with the foundation day of the Indian Air Force as well as the day when Dussehra is celebrated.
Singh will also perform the ‘Shastrapuja’ on the auspicious occasion of Vijayadashami and fly a sortie in the Rafale fighter jet at 7 pm.
“As per plans, a French pilot will fly in the front cockpit while Singh will sit in the rear cockpit. The first Indian Rafale fighter jet with tail no RB-01 will be used for the sortie,” sources in IAF said.
The tail number has the initials of newly-appointed IAF chief Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria in recognition of his role in the around Rs 60,000 crore deal signed in 2016 for 36 planes.
The Defence Minister will also hold the Annual Defence Dialogue with the French Minister of Armed Forces during his visit.
On October 9, Singh will address the CEOs of the French defence industry during which he is likely to urge them to participate in ‘Make in India’ and the Defence Expo to be held in Lucknow in February next year.