AMBALA: French Defence Minister Florence Parly on Thursday said India will have an edge over the entire region in defending its people with the induction of Rafale fighter jets, an event she described as a symbol of the relationship between the two countries.
Speaking at the ceremony at Ambala airbase where five France-made aircraft were inducted into the Indian Air Force, she said India and France are now writing a new chapter in their defence ties.
She said the programme to deliver the 36 aircraft to India meant a lot.
"In military terms, it means that India will acquire a world-class capability, truly among the best in the world that would give your air force an incredible sovereign tool," she said.
"In strategic terms, it means India will have an edge over the entire region to defend itself and protect its people," Parly added.
Parly said `Rafale' literally means a "gust of wind" or a "burst of fire".
"Both meanings express an incredible strength," she said, adding, "It is also a symbol of the strong ties between two countries."
She expressed French support for Delhi's Make in India plan.
"We are fully committed to the Make in India initiative as well as to the further integration of Indian manufactures into our global supply chains," she said.
She added that Make in India has been a reality for the French industry for several years, particularly for defence equipment like submarines.
"Many French companies and design offices are now established in India and now I hope that others will come to offer their support and services," she said.
At a joint press conference later with her Indian counterpart Rajnath Singh, Parly said the event marked a step forward in strategic partnership that dated back to 1998.
"The strategic partnership between France and India is based on common values and friendship forged over several decades," she said.
"Since India's independence, our two democracies have been cooperating very closely. France has always stood beside India in good and bad times," she said.
Parly said both countries have shown solidarity by supporting each other in the management of the COVID 19 health crisis.
"At the peak of the epidemic in France, India supported us by sending essential medicines," she said, adding that France recently sent to India medical equipment for patients in intensive care.
"The Rafale aircraft which you see here is a practical symbol of the road that we have travelled together and the vitality of our relationship," she told reporters.
"Indian pilots train regularly with our air force and navy pilots. We will be proud to see Indian Rafale aircraft flying on both sides in the training exercises next year," she said.
The French minister said the strategic cooperation is progressing well as the two countries cooperated on an equal footing and are "very respectful of our strategic autonomy and sovereignty".
Parly said the two countries have common goals on maritime security and preserving freedom of navigation.
She described the relationship between both nations as "excellent, concrete and ambitious".
She said the Indian-France strategic partnership will be even more crucial in the post pandemic scenario.
"And I am very confident that we will emerge from this current challenge, more resilient and more innovative than before," she added.
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 them at a cost of Rs 59,000 crore.
The Rafale jets, produced by French aerospace major Dassault Aviation, are known for air superiority and precision strikes.