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French Foreign Minister to discuss new cycle of partnership during maiden visit to India 

A file photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with French President Emmanuel Macron in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh (Image courtesy: PIB)

Signifying the depth and strength that the India-France Strategic Partnership has acquired in recent years, French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna will be arriving in India on Tuesday, her first bilateral visit to Asia since assuming office in May.

On Wednesday, the French minister will call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, hold talks with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and also meet National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval. She will then travel to Mumbai for engagements with industry leaders and address the annual general meeting of the Indo-French Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IFCCI) on Thursday.

In a packed schedule, Colonna will not only deliver her “first major speech” on the Indo-Pacific since becoming a minister but also visit the Indian Navy’s Kalvari class ‘Vagsheer’ submarine built with the transfer of technology from France to India, in line with the ‘Make in India’ initiative.

From the acquisition of 36 Rafale fighter jets to the partnership between Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Safran to develop helicopter engines, the two countries continue working closely to expand the relationship to new areas of cooperation, as envisaged by PM Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Both leaders had recently reviewed the ongoing bilateral initiatives including defence cooperation projects under PM Modi’s vision of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ and cooperation in civil nuclear energy.

Ahead of her arrival, the French Foreign Ministry said that these exchanges will make it possible to address all aspects of the bilateral relationship, in particular the strategic partnership that has united the two countries for nearly 25 years and also their ongoing cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.

“The aim of Minister Colonna’s visit is to move forward with an ambitious agenda to deepen and expand the Indo-French strategic partnership ahead of its 25th anniversary next year. The visit also demonstrates France’s unwavering commitment to the Indo-Pacific and determination to work with India to find common solutions to global disorders,” said the ministry.

Paris is also keen on discussing the current international situation – in particular the war in Ukraine – and working on the preparation of the next Indian presidency of the G20.

“In a year that marks the 75th anniversary of Indo-French diplomatic relations, Minister Colonna will highlight France’s belief that our trust-based strategic partnership is our best asset to continue boosting our strategic autonomy and uphold a multipolar rules-based world order. In this respect, Minister Colonna will convey France’s full support to India’s upcoming G20 presidency,” added the French statement.

Discussions on regional and global security issues, strengthened defence cooperation, as well as the implementation of France’s counter-terrorism cooperation with India, which is hosting the ‘No Money for Terror’ conference in November, will take centre stage during Colonna’s meeting with NSA Doval.

The bilateral strategic partnership, regional and global subjects of common interest between India and France, which is currently chairing the United Nations Security Council, will feature during the French Foreign Minister’s bilateral consultations with Jaishankar.

“India and France have a long-standing strategic partnership, strengthened by regular high level consultations and growing convergences in various areas. Ms. Colonna’s visit will pave the way for further strengthening of the partnership across trade, defence, climate, migration and mobility, education and health sectors,” the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said before Colonna’s arrival in New Delhi.

Modi Macron

With people-to-people ties being quite significant in the Indo-French relationship, Minister Colonna will also interact with students of Lady Shri Ram College for Women on Wednesday.

“The Minister will present the avenues for India-France student mobility, particularly as facilitated by the bilateral agreement on mobility, and lay out France’s actions to improve gender equality and promote women’s empowerment in line with its feminist foreign policy,” said the French embassy in New Delhi.

France has been ranked as the top European destination for FDI for the third year in a row, a point that the French minister is expected to make in Mumbai while meeting with leading Indian investors having business interests in France.

She will call upon French companies to continue investing in India’s immense potential with sustainable solutions that help meet India’s ecological transition goals and strengthen the Indo-French partnership for the planet.

With a view to emphasise the key role of the France-India strategic partnership in delivering a positive agenda for security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific Region, Colonna will deliver a speech on ‘France and India in the Indo-Pacific: an essential partnership in challenging times’ at an event organised by the Observer Research Foundation (ORF).

During the last leg of her trip, the French Minister will tour Mazagon Dock shipyard, where she will visit ‘Vagsheer’, the most recent of the France-designed Kalvari-class submarines made in India for the Indian Navy under a successful transfer of technology programme.

“This visit will exemplify France’s commitment to Aatmanirbhar Bharat in the defence sector and to Indo-French naval cooperation as a net security provider in the Indo-Pacific,” said the French Foreign Ministry.

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