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    Rafale induction: Rajnath meets French defence minister

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    Defence Minister Rajnath Singh held a brief conversation with his French counterpart, Florence Parly, in Delhi on Thursday on ways to further boost bilateral defence cooperation.

    The talks took place at Palam Air Force station soon after Parly arrived on a day-long visit to participate in a ceremony in Ambala to mark formal induction of the first batch of Rafale aircraft into the Indian Air Force.

    The French defence minister was also given a ceremonial guard of honour at the airport.

    Later, both Singh and Parly left for Ambala. The two ministers, along with senior officials of the armed forces, participated in a puja to mark induction of the fighters.

    The first batch of five Rafale jets arrived in India on July 29, nearly four years after India signed an inter-governmental agreement with France to procure 36 of the aircraft at a cost of Rs 59,000 crore.

    Singh and Parly are scheduled to hold wide-ranging talks in Ambala after the Rafale induction ceremony.

    France on Wednesday described India as its “foremost” Asian strategic partner and said the visit of Florence Parly to the country is aimed at further strengthening forward-looking defence cooperation with New Delhi.

    “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 as well as major regional and international strategic issues,” the French embassy said.

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