Prime Minister Narendra Modi and France’s Emmanuel Macron Wednesday discussed the situation in Ukraine and the defence cooperation in their first bilateral meeting since the French President got re-elected last month after a tough election.
The two leaders met in Paris late on Wednesday, and a readout of their meeting came early Thursday. Modi, who was on a trip to Germany and Denmark, made a brief stopover to meet Macron in Paris on his way back to New Delhi.
The joint statement said, “France reiterates its strong condemnation of the unlawful and unprovoked aggression against Ukraine by Russian Forces” — a unilateral statement showing the divergence between New Delhi and France.
But it also said, “India and France expressed serious concern at the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. They unequivocally condemned 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.”
It also said that India and France express “deep concern about the current aggravation of global food security and nutrition, already impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, and especially in developing countries They are committed to enabling a coordinated, multilateral response to address the risk of aggravated food crisis because of the conflict in Ukraine, including through initiatives such as the Food and Agriculture Resilience Mission (FARM), which aims at ensuring well-functioning markets, solidarity and long-term resilience”.
On defence cooperation, both sides welcomed the ongoing intense cooperation across all defence domains. Joint exercises (Shakti, Varuna, Pegase, Desert Knight, Garuda) that “illustrate efforts towards better integration and interoperability wherever possible”.
India and France underscored that the “long-standing armament cooperation is testimony to the mutual trust between the two sides. The six Scorpene submarines built at MDL in Mumbai illustrate 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 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 the “Aatmanirbhar Bharat” (Self-reliant India) efforts in advanced defence technology, manufacturing and exports, including through encouraging increased industry to industry partnerships,”, the joint statement said.
Meanwhile, the statement also said, “maritime cooperation between India and France has reached new levels of trust and will continue through exercises, exchanges and joint endeavours throughout the Indian Ocean”.
On Indo-Pacific, the joint statement said that 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 the commitment to international law, respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, freedom of navigation and a region free from coercion, tensions and conflicts.”
It added that the Indo-France Indo-Pacific partnership encompasses defence and security, trade, investment, connectivity, health, and sustainability. Besides bilateral cooperation, India and France will continue to develop new partnerships in various formats with like-minded countries in the region and within regional organisations, it said.
The first Indo-Pacific Ministerial Forum held in Paris in February 2022 during the French presidency of the Council of the EU launched an ambitious agenda at the EU level based on the EU Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo Pacific.