India, France agree to boost cooperation to deal with security challenges in outer space

The two sides agreed to find creative ways for France’s deeper involvement in India’s 'Atmanirbhar Bharat' initiatives
nirban Bhaumik
Last Updated : 05 May 2022, 09:01 IST
Last Updated : 05 May 2022, 09:01 IST
Last Updated : 05 May 2022, 09:01 IST
Last Updated : 05 May 2022, 09:01 IST

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India and France agreed to step up cooperation to deal with security challenges in outer space as Prime Minister Narendra Modi met French President Emmanuel Macron during a brief stopover in Paris before returning to New Delhi from his tour to Europe early on Thursday.

The two sides agreed to find creative ways for France’s deeper involvement in India’s “Atmanirbhar Bharat” initiatives to help it achieve self reliance in advanced defence technology, manufacturing and exports, including through increased industry to industry partnerships.

Modi and Macron agreed to set up a bilateral strategic dialogue in order to address the contemporary challenges that have arisen in space, in particular maintaining a secure access to space for all. The dialogue will bring together experts from space and defence agencies of the two nations, apart from administration and specialised ecosystems to discuss security and economic challenges in outer space, the norms and principles applicable to space as well as unveil new areas of cooperation.

The two sides agreed to hold the first dialogue this year itself, according to a joint statement issued after the meeting between the two leaders in Paris.

The Prime Minister had a brief stopover in Paris while flying from Copenhagen to New Delhi. He was the first foreign leader to meet Macron after he was recently re-elected to the office of the French President for another term.

Macron reiterated France’s strong condemnation of Russia’s “unlawful and unprovoked” aggression against Ukraine. Modi, however, stuck to India’s policy of avoiding calling out Russia for launching military operations in Ukraine.

He, however, joined the French President in expressing serious concern at the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. The two leaders unequivocally condemned civilian deaths in Ukraine and called for an immediate cessation of hostilities and return to dialogue and diplomacy to find an immediate end to the suffering of the people. They underlined the need to respect United Nations 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.

“There is a very clear understanding of each other's position (Russia-Ukraine conflict) and they (Modi and Macron) did agree to stay in touch and coordinate very closely,” Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra said briefing mediapersons in Paris just after the meeting between the two leaders.

He said that Modi had given Macron a “very elaborate understanding of the space” where India’s position on the Russia-Ukraine conflict had originated from.

India's refusal to condemn Russia for its aggression against Ukraine renewed focus on its dependence on the former Soviet Union nation for its military hardware. Macron conveyed to Modi that France was ready to help India in diversifying its defence procurement and thus, lessening its dependence on Russia.

Though France's Naval Group recently pulled out of India's P-75I project to build six new conventional submarines for its navy, the two sides highlighted that construction of the six Scorpene submarines built at the Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited in Mumbai illustrated the level of transfer of technology from France to India, in line with the “Make in India” initiative. They also highlighted timely delivery of the 36 Rafale fighter jets by the Dassault Aviation of France to the Indian Air Force despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

Modi and Macron sought to set the tone for the next phase of bilateral strategic partnership with France, offering to expand its defence cooperation with India to help it lessen its dependence on Russia for military hardware.

The two sides are currently engaged in negotiations for France to help India develop 110 KN engines for its fifth generation fighter jets.

Sending out a subtle message to China, India and France also called for 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.

Published 05 May 2022, 09:01 IST

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