New Delhi, Nov 17 (IANS) After officials of India, the US, Japan and Australia held the first-ever quadrilateral meeting in Manila last week on the security and development of the Indo-Pacific region, India and France on Friday agreed to cooperate on the security architecture of the Indian Ocean Region.
“In terms of maritime security, both sides discussed increasing cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region where the presence of India and France is very important,” External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said in a joint address to the media with French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian after delegation-level talks here.
“This cooperation is aimed at ensuring unhindered trade and movement and security of the international sea lanes, fighting maritime terrorism and piracy, creating awareness about the oceanic region, building capacities on regional and international platforms and increasing coordination at the official level,” she said.
Her comments come after Sunday’s India-US-Japan-Australia meeting in the Philippines capital where the officials agreed that “a free, open, prosperous and inclusive” Indo-Pacific served long-term global interests, giving impetus to an emerging quad of democracies amid China’s rising military and economic power.
Le Drian meanwhile said that India and France share a common analysis of major international issues.
“Our bilateral relations must thus be understood as an expression of this common analysis that we have on major global issues, be it combating terrorism, be it the necessary reinforcement of maritime security, be it in cooperation in the Indian Ocean – where France and India are countries belonging to the Indian Ocean Rim. This commonality of views is complete — as we observed this morning – and calls again for the strengthening of our partnership,” he said.
Sushma Swaraj said that in Friday’s talks, both sides discussed all bilateral issues and matters of regional and global concern.
The India-France relationship was elevated to that of a strategic partnership in 1998. India is the only country in Asia with which Paris has such a relationship.
Stating that both India and France were for a multi-polar world, she said that defence and security cooperation, space cooperation and civil nuclear cooperation formed the three pillars of the bilateral relationship.
She said that both sides also agreed to make their military logistics stronger.
“France has been a partner in our space programme from the very beginning,” she said.
“We have together started many projects and have completed many missions. Today, we discussed ways to give a clear shape to our space cooperation.”
In terms of civil nuclear cooperation, the Indian Minister said that both sides agreed on an early start to the work on the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant (JNPP).
French utility EDF and Nuclear Power Corp of India Limited (NPCIL) signed an agreement in March 2016 to construct six reactors of the JNPP, each of 1,650 MW.
Sushma Swaraj said France has supported India’s bid for membership in the UN Security Council and in the Multilateral Export Control Regimes that includes the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Australia Group and the Wassenaar Arrangement.
“We have also agreed to further strengthen our cooperation, both at the bilateral and multilateral levels, in the fight against terrorism,” she said.
“We have appealed to all countries in the world to unitedly oppose those countries which finance and provide safe havens to terrorists,” she said.
On economic ties between India and France, Sushma Swaraj said that with bilateral trade standing at $10.95 billion, there was immense scope to increase this.
There are around 1,000 French companies operating in India with a total turnover of $20 billion and employing around 300,000 people.
Le Drian, here to lay the groundwork for French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to India early next year, said that both sides discussed a “wide range of issues” on Friday.
He said France wanted to help India in areas like smart cities, ecomobility and waste management.
Talking about India-France strategic relationship, Le Drian cited the deal for Rafale fighter jets and Scorpene submarines as as example of the proximity between the two nations.
“I am well placed to know that our defence partnership is significant, as shown through the Rafale and Scorpene projects – to mention only the most emblematic ones. But it is not limited to the acquisition of military assets, it is far broader than that, as exemplified in our cooperation in the Indian Ocean,” he said.
Le Drian, who arrived here on Thursday on a four-day visit to India, will leave for Jaipur on Saturday to inaugurate Bonjour India, a French festival in India that will see around 300 events spread across 33 cities.
Earlier on Friday, the French Minister met Minister of State for New and Renewable Energy Ram Kumar Singh.
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