Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, who will be in Paris to receive the first Rafale jet, is expected to perform “Shastra Puja” in France, news agency PTI reported on Sunday.
“The defence minister will perform the Shastra Puja in Paris on the occasion of Dussehra. He has been doing it for last several years including as Union Home Minister,” a senior official was quoted as saying by PTI.
Shastra Puja or Ayudha Puja is performed to worship weapons and it has been part of Dussehra celebrations in several parts of the country. Singh has been performing ‘Shastra Puja’ for last several years including in his tenure as Union Home Minister in the previous NDA government.
Singh is leaving for Paris on a three-day visit primarily to receive the first of 36 Rafale fighter jets on Tuesday, when Dussehra is coinciding with the foundation day of the Indian Air Force. The defence minister will then take a sortie in the aircraft from a French airbase to gain first-hand experience of the fighter jet.
On October 9, Singh is scheduled to hold extensive talks with top defence brass of the French government on ways to further deepen defence and security cooperation between the two countries.
Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria had said that the first Rafale fighter jets will be seen in Indian skies only by the end of May 2020. “By May 2020, we will be receiving four Rafale fighter jets. It will be only then that we will see the aircraft in the Indian skies. The advantage of getting the Rafale in May next year will be that our pilots will be substantially trained by then,” said Bhadauria during a press conference ahead of the IAF Day.
The IAF has already completed preparations, including readying required infrastructure and training of pilots, to welcome the fighter aircraft. 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.
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