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PM Narendra Modi being welcomed by the Indian community at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, France. Image Credit: PTI

Paris: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday exuded confidence that India has begun its journey towards development.

“Today I can say with confidence that the 130 crore [1.3 billion] Indians have begun their journey towards development. The mandate we have received is not just for running a government, but for building a New India’,” Modi said addressing the Indian community at the Unesco headquarters here.

He added that when he had visited France four years back, he had promised that the country will start its march towards development.

“I do not belong to the community of Indians that forgets promises. I am the one who reminds people of the promises I made,” he said.

“I have come to a nation of football lovers - a nation that very well understands the importance of goals. In the last five years, we have together set goals, which were considered impossible to fulfil,” he said.

The PM also inaugurated a memorial there, that has been built to pay homage to the Indians who lost their lives in two Air India plane crashes — in 1950 and other in 1966.

“I salute all those including the great Indian nuclear physicist Homi Bhabha who lost their lives in the Air India plane crashes in France’s Saint Gervais,” he said.

Taking an indirect jibe at his political opponents, regarding the abrogation of Article 370, Modi said it was ironical that a country with such strong cultural heritage had taken 70 years to eliminate a temporary provision.

“There is no scope for temporary in India. You would have seen how a country of 1.25 billion people, the land of Mahatma Gandhi, Gautam Buddha, Ram, Krishna took 70 years to remove what was temporary. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at this,” the PM said while addressing the Indian community here.

He added that India was now marching towards its goals based on principles of reform, perform and transform.

Modi appreciated the role of the Indian community in France in strengthening bilateral ties. “Your contribution is integral to Indo-French ties. You are the representatives, the voice and the identity of India in France. I hope that you would continue to strengthen this voice here,” he said.

“Your achievements make us proud. Many Indians are members of the French Parliament. This fills us with pride. I am happy that you have adopted and learnt about the French laws and culture without letting go of your core Indian values,” he added.

The prime minister also greeted the gathering on the occasion of Janmashtami and said he had heard that Ganesh Chaturthi was a prominent festival in Paris. “I have heard that Paris transforms into a mini India on the occasion. We will hear ‘Ganpati Bappa’ soon,” he said.

India to receive first Rafale fighter jet in September

The first Rafale fighter jet will be handed over to India in September, French President Emmanuel Macron said in Paris Modi is currently on a three-nation tour and landed in France on Thursday.

“We have expressed our condolences for what happened in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama on February 14, 2019. We will continue to work together on terrorism. Our ties in the defence sector show how much we trust each other. We have also affirmed that we will help in ‘Make in India’ and the first Rafale aircraft will reach India by next month,” said Macron.

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French President Emmanuel Macron (left) welcomes Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Image Credit: AP/PTI

India has signed an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) with France for purchase of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft from the French aviation major Dassault.

As per sources, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Air Chief B.S. Dhanoa are likely to visit France in the third week of September to receive the first jet of the 36 aircraft.

Prime Minister expressed hope for greater defence cooperation between India and France in the future.

“India offers great opportunities for French companies. There is scope for immense cooperation in skill development, aviation, IT and space. The strides made in India-France defence cooperation are promising. Our nations are also working on maritime as well as cyber security,” tweeted Modi.