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Rajnath Singh to perform Shastra Puja after receiving Rafale jet in Paris on Tuesday

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NEW DELHI (PTI): Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will on Tuesday perform 'Shastra Puja' (worship of weapons) on the occasion of Dussehra after receiving the first of 36 Rafale jets in the French port city of Bordeaux, officials said.

After performing puja, he will take a sortie in the aircraft, they said.

Singh has been performing 'Shastra Puja' for last several years including during his tenure as the Union Home Minister in the previous NDA government.

The defence minister will leave for Paris on a three-day visit on Monday, primarily to receive the first Rafale fighter jet on Tuesday -- the foundation day of the Indian Air Force as well as the day when Dussehra will be celebrated.

Singh will perform 'Shastra Puja' after receiving the first Rafale fighter jet at Merignac suburb of Bordeaux on Tuesday. After performing puja, he will take a sortie in the aircraft, the officials said.

Before leaving for Bordeaux on the morning of Tuesday, Singh will meet French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris and is expected to discuss issues relating to defence and security ties between the two countries.

The ceremony to hand over the Rafale jet will take place at a facility of Dassault Aviation, the makers of the aircraft, in Merignac of Bordeaux, which is at a distance of around 590 km from Paris.

Though Singh will receive the first of the 36 Rafale jets on Tuesday, the first batch of four aircraft will come to India only by May next year.

"The defence minister will participate in the Rafale handing over ceremony at Merignac along with French Minister of Armed Forces Florence Parly. He will also perform the Shastra puja on the auspicious occasion of Vijayadashami and fly a sortie in the Rafale fighter aircraft," Defence Ministry Spokesperson Bharat Bhusan Babu said.

Later Singh will hold the annual defence dialogue with Parly during which both sides will explore ways to further deepen defence and security ties.

On October 9, Singh will address the CEOs of leading French defence firms during which he is likely to urge them to participate in the "Make in India" in defence sector in India, Babu said.

Singh is also likely to invite them to the DefExpo to be held in Lucknow from February 5 to 8 next year.

Defence and security ties between India and France were on an upswing in the last few years.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited France in August during which both sides resolved to further enhance the already close defence ties.

Sources said a high-level team of the Indian Air Force is already in France to coordinate with the French officials on the handing over ceremony.

India had signed an inter-governmental agreement with France in September 2016 for procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets at a cost of around Rs 59,000 crore.

The aircraft is capable of carrying a range of potent weapons and missiles.

The IAF has already completed preparations, including readying required infrastructure and training of pilots, to welcome the fighter aircraft.

The sources said the first squadron of the aircraft will be deployed at Ambala air force station, considered one of the most strategically located bases of the IAF. The Indo-Pak border is around 220 km from there.

The second squadron of Rafale will be stationed at Hasimara base in West Bengal.

A number of IAF teams have already visited France to help Dassault Aviation incorporate India-specific enhancements on-board the fighter aircraft.

The Rafale jets will come with various India-specific modifications, including Israeli helmet-mounted displays, radar warning receivers, low band jammers, 10-hour flight data recording, infra-red search and tracking systems among others.

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