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First batch to arrive in May; Minister says the jets will boost India’s air dominance

Invoking blessings: Rajnath Singh performing puja on the first Rafale jet, which was handed over to the IAF at the factory of Dassault Aviation in Merignac in France on Tuesday. REUTERSREUTERS

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh formally received the first Rafale fighter jet built for the Indian Air Force (IAF) in France on Tuesday. However, the first batch of the jets will arrive in India only in May 2020.

“I am told that Rafale is a French word meaning gust of wind. I am sure the aircraft will live up to its name. I believe Rafale will boost India’s air dominance exponentially to ensure peace and security in the region,” Mr. Singh said, speaking at the handover ceremony. He was handed over the first Indian aircraft, RB-001, by Dassault Aviation CEO Eric Trappier.

After the ceremony, Mr. Singh performed shastra puja on the aircraft, on the occasion of Vijayadashami, and also flew a sortie on it. Later, he held the Annual Defence Dialogue with his French counterpart Florence Parly, the Defence Ministry said.

Speaking to journalists after the sortie, Mr. Singh said India is procuring the Rafales for self-defence and as a deterrent. “By February 2021, we will receive 18 Rafale jets and by April 2022, we will get all the 36 Rafale,” he said.

Earlier, he called on French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace.

Comprehensive talks

The two leaders “comprehensively discussed key aspects of bilateral defence partnership and resolved to continue strengthening the ties between the two countries,” a statement from the Defence Ministry said.

“I thanked President Macron for his strong support to further intensifying our strategic partnership, especially in the defence sector, with India, and for our ‘Make in India’ initiatives,” Mr. Singh said after the meeting.

Mr. Singh later flew with Ms. Parly to Merignac, where Dassault Aviation’s Rafale final assembly facility is located.

On October 9, Mr. Singh is scheduled to address the Chief Executive Officers of the French defence industry and is likely to urge them to participate in ‘Make in India’ and the DefExpo to be held in Lucknow from February 5 to 8, 2020, the Ministry said.

Till May 2020, three batches of IAF pilots, engineers and technicians will undergo advanced training on the Indian jets in France. So far, three IAF pilots and two technical officers have trained on French Air Force Rafale jets, as per the terms of the contract.

In September 2016, India and France signed a €7.87 billion Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) for 36 Rafale multi-role fighter jets in fly-away condition following the surprise announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in April 2015.

(With inputs from PTI)

Upcoming high-level exchanges will benefit: Sun Weidong

Relations between India and China will benefit from “upcoming high-level exchanges”, said Chinese Ambassador to India Sun Weidong in an interview to The Hindu on Tuesday.

New Delhi and Beijing are expected to announce on Wednesday Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Mamallapuram for the second ‘informal summit’ with Prime Minister Narendra Modi after the Wuhan Summit last year.

Strategic significance

“As the only two major developing countries with a population of over one billion and important representatives of emerging economies, China-India relations transcend the bilateral dimension and assume global and strategic significance,” Mr. Sun said in the interview conducted face-to-face with responses given in writing.

During the one-day ‘informal summit’ in Mamallapuram, near Chennai, expected to be held on Friday, Mr. Xi and Mr. Modi will spend time together over several one-on-one meetings.

The delay in announcement of Mr. Xi’s visit, with just two days to go, has led to speculation that it would be postponed over differences between New Delhi and Beijing.

India has protested comments by Chinese officials on the government’s move to amend Article 370, and China reportedly conveyed its displeasure over the military exercises in Arunachal Pradesh just ahead of the talks.

Kejriwal was scheduled to fly out on Tuesday to attend Oct. 9-12 climate meet

Arvind Kejriwal

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Tuesday attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the Centre's decision to withhold sanction for Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to attend the C40 Cities Climate Summit in Copenhagen.

The Ministry of External Affairs did not give clearance to the Delhi Chief Minister, who was part of an eight-member delegation scheduled to fly to Denmark on Tuesday afternoon, to attend the three-day event between October 9 and October 12.

Terming the incident “unfortunate”, AAP Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh said, “Why Modiji’s Central government is working with such ill will is beyond me. This was no personal visit for Kejriwal. He was not going sightseeing; he was going to talk among Mayors of 100 cities of Asia on how pollution was reduced by 25% in Delhi. But you cancelled a Chief Minister's visit. You have made a joke out of the whole system.”

“We had applied about 38 days before the visit, but didn’t get permission. Kolkata’s UD Minister applied a week earlier and got permission. Why so much ill will for us?” he said, referring to West Bengal Urban Development and Municipal Affairs Minister and Kolkata Mayor Firhad Hakim who, according to Delhi government sources, received MEA clearance to travel to Denmark on September 30.

Spate of refusals

Mr. Singh further said that the Central government earlier did not allow Education Minister Manish Sisodia to travel to Moscow and Health Minister Satyendar Jain to go on a trip to Australia to talk about the work done in Delhi by the AAP government. “Modiji's government has destroyed the image of India before the world. Is this our federal structure?” he asked.

That the Chief Minister would not be able to attend the event became clear on Tuesday morning with no response from the MEA despite continuing attempts to elicit one, said a Delhi government source.

“As far as the clearance is concerned, there is no change in the status since last (Monday) evening. The Chief Minister will most likely not be able to attend the conference, which is scheduled between October 9 and 12,” the source said earlier during the day.

Scheduled events

At the Danish capital, the Delhi Chief Minister was scheduled to address a joint press conference to launch the Clean Air Cities Declaration with the Mayor of Paris and leaders from Los Angeles, Copenhagen, Portland, Jakarta and Barcelona.

The Chief Minister was also a confirmed speaker at two sessions. In the session titled ‘Breathe Deeply’, he was to speak on his government’s experience in lowering air pollution in the city and present the set of initiatives taken by it that led to the 25% reduction in air pollution in the city.

In addition to addressing the Asian Mayors and City Leaders Meeting on low-carbon inclusive growth, Mr. Kejriwal also had bilateral engagements scheduled with the Mayors of Sydney, Johannesburg and Rotterdam.

Stating that lynching was a concept alien to India, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat on Tuesday observed that isolated incidents of social violence should not be labelled with foreign words, like lynching, to defame the country.

“Such things have never happened in our country... This is a word for events that have occurred in foreign countries. But some people within India are trying to defame our society, the Hindu community and the Sangh by imposing such foreign terms,” the RSS sarsanghchalak said, addressing a massive gathering of RSS volunteers on the occasion of Vijaydashami at the Sangh headquarters in Nagpur. The Congress has termed the remarks “insensitive”.

Hitting out at those claiming that ‘mob lynching’ was on the rise, he said: “From where have such words [lynching] originated? The word originated from an incident in the life of Jesus Christ which then made its way into the religious text of a foreign land.” He said RSS activists would never indulge in such incidents.

“On the contrary, he [an RSS swayamsevak] would actively attempt to prevent such incidents [lynching] and refuse shelter to the perpetrators of such crimes,” Mr. Bhagwat said, while cautioning that everyone in society must “remain within Constitutional bounds” irrespective of differences in opinion.

James Peebles awarded for discoveries in cosmology; Michel Mayor, Didier Queloz honoured for finding an exoplanet

A Canadian-American cosmologist and two Swiss scientists won this year's Nobel Prize in Physics on Tuesday for exploring the evolution of the universe and discovering a new kind of planet, with implications for that nagging question: Does life exist only on earth.

Canadian-born James Peebles, 84, an emeritus professor at Princeton University, won for his theoretical discoveries in cosmology.

Swiss star-gazers Michel Mayor, 77, and Didier Queloz, 53, both of the University of Geneva, were honoured for finding an exoplanet — a planet outside our solar system — that orbits a sun-like star, the Nobel committee said.

“This year's Nobel laureates in physics have painted a picture of the universe far stranger and more wonderful than we ever could have imagined,” said Ulf Danielsson of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which selected the laureates.

“Our view of our place in the universe will never be the same again.”

Cosmic radiation

Dr. Peebles, hailed as one of the most influential cosmologists of his time, who realized the importance of the cosmic radiation background born of the Big Bang, will collect one half of the 9 million kronor ($918,000) cash award.

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