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France to ensure timely delivery of Rafale despite COVID-19 challenges: Rajnath Singh

New Delhi: France has affirmed commitment to ensure timely delivery of Rafale aircraft despite challenges posed by COVID-19 pandemic, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said on Tuesday after holding a telephonic conversation with French Minister of Armed Forces, Florence Parly.

During the telephonic conversation, the two leaders discussed matters of "mutual concern" including the COVID-19 situation and regional security.

"Had a telephonic conversation with French Minister of Armed Forces, Ms Florence Parly today. We discussed matters of mutual concern including COVID-19 situation, regional security and agreed to strengthen the Bilateral Defence Cooperation between India and France," said Rajnath Singh in a tweet.

"We also appreciated the efforts made by Armed Forces of India and France in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. France has affirmed its commitment to ensure timely delivery of Rafale Aircraft despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic," the Defence Minister said in another tweet.

The first four Rafale fighter aircraft would start arriving in India by July-end this year from France.

The delivery of the aircraft was earlier supposed to have been done by May end but this was postponed by two months in view of the COVID-19 situation in both India and France.

India had signed a deal worth over Rs 60,000 crore with France in September 2016 for 36 Rafales to meet the emergency requirements of the Indian Air Force.

Armed with the long-range Meteor air to air missiles and SCALP, the Rafales would give India an edge over both Pakistan and China in terms of air strike capability. 

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