Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday met French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris ahead of formally receiving the first Rafale fighter jet on the occasion of Dussehra as well as the Air Force Day.
Singh, who is on a three-day visit to France, called on Macron at the Elysee Palace in Paris and held a meeting that lasted for more than half-an-hour.
During the brief meeting, French President Emmanuel Macron vowed ‘unrelenting fight’ against Islamist terror.
Before calling on Macron, Singh met the French Minister for the Armed forces Florence Parly and the French President’s Defence Advisor Admiral Bernard Rogel.
Singh, who is accompanied on the France tour by a host of senior defence officials, reached Paris late on Monday night.
“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,” Singh had tweeted.
India has entered into an inter-governmental agreement with France and Dassault, the French aviation major, to acquire 36 Rafale fighter jets in flyaway condition at a cost of Rs 59,000 crore.
The Rafale aircraft will be handed over to Singh at the Bordeaux-Merignac Air Base near the assembly plant of Dassault Aviation later today.
Singh is scheduled to perform a ‘Shastra Puja’ (weapon worship) before receiving the fighter jet. Later, he will also fly a sortie on a twin-seater trainer version of the Rafale combat aircraft.
The chief of Indian Air Force (IAF) Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria had last week said that the first Rafale fighter jets will be seen in Indian skies only by the end of May 2020.
Bhadauria said that India will receive the first four of the 36 Rafale fighter jets by May 2020.
He also said that there are no separate plans to acquire another 36 Rafale jets in a separate bid. India is planning to acquire 114 fighter jets to make up for its depleting strength of fighter aircraft.