Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron. (Reuters)
New Delhi: In the talks at Elysee Palace in Paris till late Wednesday night (India time) between "good friends" Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron to prepare a "blueprint" for the next stage of their strategic partnership, the two nations decided to "partner more strongly in the field of co-designing, co-development, co-production of different defence equipment in India". France "strongly condemned the unlawful and unprovoked aggression against Ukraine by Russian forces", and the two strategic partners "showed a broad understanding of each other's position" on the Ukraine conflict, with both Mr Modi and President Macron "agreeing that close coordination and engagement was important so that both India and France can play a constructive role in the evolving situation".
Mr Modi gave the French President "a very elaborate understanding of the space from where the Indian position originated… which calls for the immediate cessation of hostilities and the resolution to the ongoing situation through diplomacy and dialogue", foreign secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra told reporters at a special briefing in Paris early Thursday morning before Mr Modi’s departure for New Delhi.
The foreign secretary also said the "the two leaders held wide-ranging discussions on all the key areas of bilateral engagement, including in defence, space, civil nuclear cooperation and people-to-people linkages", and "also discussed regional and global issues, including developments in Europe and in the Indo-Pacific". Asked about the Rafale fighter jets that India has acquired from France, Kwatra indicated that the talks between the two leaders were in a "format that is not necessarily focused on transactions or individual platforms". The two also "discussed ways to work together in making the India-France Strategic Partnership a force for global good". Modi also congratulated President Macron on his recent re-election as President during the "short yet, substantive visit" that lasyed a few hours. He also invited the French President "to visit India at the earliest opportunity".
A joint statement on Thursday said: "India and France expressed serious concern at the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. They unequivocally condemned the civilian deaths in Ukraine and called for an immediate cessation of hostilities to bring parties together to promote dialogue and diplomacy to find an immediate end to the suffering of the people. Both countries underlined the need to respect the UN Charter, international law and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states. The two leaders discussed the regional and global implications of the conflict in Ukraine and agreed to intensify coordination on the issue."
The foreign secretary said: "The two leaders also spoke very extensively, exchanged views very extensively on the cascading effect of the situation in Ukraine, in terms of global food shortages, shortages of commodities, such as fertiliser, and how the two countries can partner together in order to address some of these challenges, which are very real and felt on the ground… As I mentioned earlier, there is a clear understanding of each other’s position and they did agree to stay in touch and coordinate very closely. So, as the situation evolves, they can both individually or together play a constructive role in this situation, so all these challenges, which I talked about, can be resolved."
On defence cooperation, the joint statement said: "The six Scorpene submarines built at MDL in Mumbai illustrates the level of transfer of technology from France to India, in line with the ‘Make in India’ initiative. As seen in the timely delivery of the Rafale jets despite the pandemic, the two sides enjoy synergy in the field of defence. Taking forward this momentum, and based on their mutual trust, both sides agreed to find creative ways for France’s deeper involvement in ‘Atma Nirbhar Bharat’ efforts in advanced defence technology, manufacturing and exports, including through encouraging increased industry-to- industry partnerships."
Asked about talks on defence cooperation, the FS said: "When the two strategic partners speak, it covers the discussions in a format which is not necessarily focused on transactions or individual platforms. India and France, as I said earlier, are very strong strategic partners and have a very strong defence partnership. The context of defence partnership is defined in case of our two countries by not just trade in different platforms, but it also extends to co-development, co-designing, co-manufacturing."
On Indo-Pacific cooperation, the statement said: "India and France have built one of the premier strategic partnerships for advancing peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region. They share a vision of a free, open and rules-based Indo-Pacific region, based on commitment to international law, respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, freedom of navigation and a region free from coercion, tensions and conflicts. The India-France ance Indo-Pacific partnership encompasses defence and security, trade, investment, connectivity, health and sustainability."