French Defence Minister Florence Parly will embark on an official visit to India on September 10, where she will attend the induction ceremony of the first batch of the Rafale fighter aircraft by the Indian Air Force at Air Force Station (AFS) Ambala.
This will mark Parly’s third official visit to India since 2017 and one of her first official trips since the outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic, according to a statement by the French Embassy in New Delhi.
“On this occasion, Minister Parly will strengthen France’s forward-looking defence cooperation with India, its foremost Asian strategic partner,” the statement said.
During her visit, the French Minister will meet her counterpart Rajnath Singh and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.
Their broad-ranging talks will cover, among others, industrial and technological partnership in line with the ‘Make in India’ programme; operational defence cooperation, particularly maritime security in the Indo-Pacific; modalities of continuing the armed forces’ joint exercises in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic; counter-terrorism cooperation; and major regional and international strategic issues.
At AFS Ambala, she will be received by Rajnath and the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshall RKS Bhadauria. The French Minister will be accompanied, among others, by top executives from Dassault Aviation, Thales Group, Safran, and MBDA, representing the French defence majors that have been partnering with many Indian companies as part of the Rafale agreement.
“These talks will further President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to deepen and expand the India-France partnership, with strategic autonomy and the defence of a multipolar order as its cornerstones,” the statement said.
At Ambala, the programme will include the ceremonial unveiling of the Rafale aircraft, a traditional ‘Sarva Dharma Puja’, air display by Rafale and Tejas aircraft as well as by ‘Sarang Aerobatic Team.’
Afterwards, a traditional water cannon salute will be given to the Rafale aircraft, the Indian Air Force said in a separate statement.
The programme will culminate with the ceremonial induction of Rafale aircraft to 17 Squadron. After the ceremonial events, the Indian and French delegation will have a bilateral meeting, the statement said.
During her visit, Parly will also pay floral tribute to India’s valiant soldiers at the National War Memorial in Delhi, according to the statement by the French Embassy in New Delhi.
Five Rafale fighter aircraft arrived in India from France on July 29. The French-origin fighter aircraft are part of the 17 Golden Arrows squadron of the Air Force.
The Rafale aircraft have already flown over the Ladakh region and have been familiarising with the terrain over which they have to fly in different parts of the country.
The five Rafales which have arrived in the country include three single-seaters and two twin-seaters. The Rafales, armed with the air-to-air meteor, air to ground SCALP and hammer missiles, are expected to give an edge to the Indian Air Force over its traditional adversaries China and Pakistan in the South Asian skies due to its long-range hit capabilities.
India had signed a contract for 36 Rafale jets under the largest-ever defence deal signed by the country worth over Rs 60,000 crores, of which the majority payments have already been made to French firm Dassault Aviation.
Rajnath had paid a visit to France in October last year to accept the first batch of the Rafale jets on the auspicious festival of Dussehra and also flew the aircraft after performing pooja with traditional Hindu rituals.