The first batch of five Rafale aircraft were formally inducted into the Indian Air Force (IAF) at the Air Force Station in Ambala, with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and French Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly in attendance.
Speaking after the event, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said the induction of the Rafale aircraft is a "big and stern message for the entire world, especially to those eyeing our sovereignty", in what can be seen as a message to China amid the standoff along the Line of Control in Ladakh.
"This induction is important considering the kind of atmosphere at our borders or should I say the kind of atmosphere created at our borders," Singh said, adding that the strategic ties between India and France have also strengthened.
Later, the defence minister presented an induction scroll to Group Captain Harkeerat Singh, the commanding officer of No 17 Squadron of the IAF, also known as the ‘Golden Arrows’, into which the Rafale jets have been inducted. He also presented a memento to his French counterpart Florence Parly.
What Happened at the Ceremony?
At the ceremony earlier, an aerial display was performed, with the Rafale jets flanked by the SU-30 and Jaguar aircraft in arrow formation. A water cannon salute was also given to the jets. Apart from that, the programme included the ceremonial unveiling of the aircraft and a traditional 'sarva dharma puja'.
Prior to the event, France’s Florence Parly received a ceremonial Guard of Honour on her arrival at Delhi. She also met Rajnath Singh at the Palam Air Force Station before leaving for Ambala.
Who All Attended the Event?
Apart from the defence ministers of the two countries, the event was also attended by Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat, IAF chief RKS Bhadauria and Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar.
The French delegation at the programme included the country’s Ambassador to India Emmanuel Lenain; Air General Eric Autellet, Vice Chief of Air Staff of the French Air Force; Dassault Aviation chairperson Eric Trappier, among others.
A day before the induction, Rajnath Singh tweeted saying, "The Rafale jets are India's first major acquisition of fighter planes in more than two decades."
The ceremony comes days after the five Rafale jets flew over 8,000 km from France to India in late July and were welcomed by the IAF at the air force station in Ambala. The fleet comprises three single-seater and two twin-seater Rafale aircraft.
The induction ceremony also comes amid heightened tensions between India and China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh.
(With inputs from ANI.)