As India formally inducted the 4.5-generation Rafale fighter jets into the Indian Air Force (IAF) on 10 September, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, in a clear reference to the standoff with China in Ladakh as well as the Chinese notoriety in Arunachal Pradesh, said the induction of the planes was a “big and stern message to the entire world, especially those eyeing our sovereignty.”
The minister said, “This kind of induction is very important for the kind of atmosphere that has been created on our borders,” without naming China.
France’s Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly, who accompanied Singh at the induction ceremony at the country’s oldest, largest and strategically important airbase at Ambala, said that, with the induction of Rafale, in military terms, India would acquire a world-class capability that will give New Delhi an incredible sovereignty. In strategic terms, this will give India an edge over the entire region to defend itself, she said. Parly stated further that the French government supported India’s claim for permanent membership of the UNSC.
The Rafale aircraft will be a part of the 17th Squadron, which is popularly known as the “Golden Arrows”, at the Ambala airbase. Describing the Rafale deal as a game-changer for India’s national security, Rajnath Singh, in his address, reiterated the resolve of not compromising India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity under any circumstances and the country’s determination to make all possible preparations for it.
Asserting that strengthening of the defence forces is aimed at achieving international peace and stability, the defence minister said, “We do not want to take any step that can endanger international peace. We have the same expectation of our neighbours and other countries of the world.” Singh congratulated the IAF personnel for the swift and decisive action taken by them near the LoAC recently and added that the rapid deployment of IAF assets at forward bases created a trust that IAF was fully prepared to meet it.
Describing the Rafale induction as a reflection of close strategic relations between India and France, Singh said both the nations have cooperated closely to enhance defence cooperation. He highlighted the Indo-French cooperation in dealing with common challenges like maritime security and piracy in the Indo-Pacific region and Indian Ocean Region. He appealed to the French industry for investment in India’s defence sector.