Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh thumbs up as he sits in a Rafale jet fighter during an handover ceremony at the Dassault Aviation plant in Merignac, near Bordeaux, southwestern France, Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019. France has delivered to India its first Rafale fighter jet from a series of 36 aircraft purchased in a multi-billion dollar deal in 2016. (AP Photo/Bob Edme)

MERIGNAC, France (AP) — India's defense minister took a flight in a Rafale fighter jet as France delivered the country its first aircraft from a series of 36 purchased in a multibillion-dollar deal in 2016.

Following an official ceremony at aircraft maker Dassault Aviation's facility in Merignac, southwestern France, Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh donned a pilot suit and helmet and got in the Rafale cockpit for a test flight with a French pilot.

Singh, who is on a three-day visit to France, was due to meet with French Defense Minister Florence Parly later in the day. The ministers were scheduled to hold talks on defense cooperation and security issues in the Indo-Pacific region.

The $8.78 billion deal sparked controversy in India last year with the main opposition Indian National Congress party accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government of buying the aircraft at nearly three times the price being negotiated when it was the ruling party before Modi came to power in 2014. The government denied any wrongdoing.

Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh shakes hands with chief pilot Philippe Duchateau, right, as he sits in a Rafale jet fighter during an handover ceremony at the Dassault Aviation plant in Merignac, near Bordeaux, southwestern France, Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019. France has delivered to India its first Rafale fighter jet from a series of 36 aircraft purchased in a multi-billion dollar deal in 2016. (AP Photo/Bob Edme)
Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh has a ritual gesture onto a Rafale jet fighter during an handover cermony at the Dassault Aviation plant in Merignac, near Bordeaux, southwestern France, Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019. France has delivered to India its first Rafale fighter jet from a series of 36 aircraft purchased in a multi-billion dollar deal in 2016. (AP Photo/Bob Edme)
Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh writes onto a Rafale jet fighter as a ritual gesture during an handover cermony at the Dassault Aviation plant in Merignac, near Bordeaux, southwestern France, Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019. France has delivered to India its first Rafale fighter jet from a series of 36 aircraft purchased in a multi-billion dollar deal in 2016. (AP Photo/Bob Edme)
Indian defense Minister Rajnath Singh shakes hands with French Defense Minister Florence Parly at the Dassault Aviation plant in Merignac, near Bordeaux, southwestern France, Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019. Rajnath Singh formally accepted the first Rafale fighter jet after India had signed a deal with the French government and Dassault Aviation in September 2016, to acquire 36 Rafale fighter jets. (AP Photo/Bob Edme)
Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh gestures before a test flight in a Rafale jet fighter at the Dassault Aviation plant in Merignac, near Bordeaux, southwestern France, Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019. France has delivered to India its first Rafale fighter jet from a series of 36 aircraft purchased in a multi-billion dollar deal in 2016. (AP Photo/Bob Edme)