By Shuriah Niazi
NEW DELHI (AA) – Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh received first Rafale fighter jet from the French manufacturer Dassault Aviation at Merignac in southwestern France, a statement issued by India’s Defense Ministry stated on Tuesday.
The multibillion deal to acquire 36 Rafale jets was signed between India and France in September 2016. The delivery of jets is scheduled to be completed by 2022.
Singh received the aircraft at the handing-over ceremony in the presence of French Minister of Armed Forces Florence Parly.
Speaking on the occasion, Singh said that the induction of Rafale fighter jets into the Indian Air Force will give a boost to India's air dominance exponentially, adding that the occasion signifies the depth of the strategic partnership between India and France.
After taking the delivery, Singh performed Shastra Puja (worship of weapons), as the ceremony of handing over coincided with Hindu festival of Vijayadashami. Videos released by Dassault Aviation showed Singh writing an 'Om' -- mystic syllable, considered the sacred mantra in Hinduism – on the jet and laying flowers and a coconut on it.
"In India, today is the festival of Dussehra also known as Vijayadashami, where we celebrate victory of good over evil. It is also the 87th Air Force Day, therefore the day becomes symbolic in so many ways," Singh added.
Dassault Aviation said the ceremony marked the concretization of the strategic relationship between India and France.
Singh, who is on a two-day visit to France, also met French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris. During the talks, the two leaders comprehensively discussed key aspects of bilateral defense partnership and resolved to continue strengthening ties between the two countries.