A file image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris (Image courtesy: PIB)
Hugs, handshakes and a lot of smiles – there was so much more at play than just mundane diplomacy when Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Emmanuel Macron, President of France, in Paris on Wednesday evening.
As India and France celebrate 75 years of their diplomatic relations, PM Modi was the first foreign leader received by Macron after his triumph in the presidential elections last month.
The impeccable trust and camaraderie that exists between the two leaders was quite visible from the warm welcome given by Macron to the Indian Prime Minister at Elysée Palace and in the talks – in one-on-one and delegation level formats – that followed.
Over the last few years, both leaders have given a new impetus to the India-France friendship and as Macron takes a fresh stance to begin his second innings, they once again displayed the spirit of trust and frankness that characterizes their relations.
India and France on Wednesday once again expressed their interest in continuing to strengthen partnership in the military and civilian nuclear fields, as well as the operational cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.
Even though it was just a "brief stopover" in Paris as PM Modi was winding up his three-day, three nation tour, there was just enough time to hold discussions on not just the situation in Ukraine and Afghanistan but also the entire range of bilateral issues, including cooperation in space, blue economy and people-to-people.
Both countries underscored that the long-standing armament cooperation is testimony to the mutual trust between the two sides.
France highlighted that apart from the timely delivery of the 36 Rafale fighter jets despite the pandemic, the six Scorpene submarines built at the Mazagon Dock Limited (MDL) in Mumbai illustrate the level of transfer of technology in line with the 'Make in India' initiative.
In Paris last night, PM Modi and Macron agreed to take forward this momentum, and based on their mutual trust, agreed to find creative ways for France's deeper involvement in the 'Atmanirbhar Bharat' (Self-reliant India) efforts in advanced defence technology, manufacturing and exports, including through encouraging increased industry to industry partnerships.
The two leaders vowed to make the India-France Strategic Partnership "a force for global good" reiterating that it is anchored on the solid bedrock of deep and consistent mutual trust, abiding faith in strategic autonomy, unwavering commitment to international law; and belief in a multipolar world shaped by reformed and effective multilateralism.
"Discussions today in the field of defence were focused more on how the two countries can partner more strongly in the field of co-designing, co-development, co-production of different defence equipment in India," said Vinay Kwatra, Foreign Secretary of India, after the Modi-Macron meeting.
As the maritime cooperation between India and France reaches "new levels of trust", both countries made it clear that it will continue through joint exercises (Shakti, Varuna, Pegase, Desert Knight, Garuda), exchanges and joint endeavours throughout the Indian Ocean.
Paris has maintained that the civil nuclear energy cooperation with India is acquiring a large-scale industrial dimension with the construction project of EPR power plants (10,000 MWe) at the Jaitapur site in Maharashtra.
On Wednesday, both sides reaffirmed the commitment to the success of the strategic project for access to reliable, affordable and low carbon energy, and welcomed the progress achieved over the last months.
With space being another important area of strategic cooperation, India and France also agreed on setting 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.
"India and France are strong strategic partners and the two leaders are also good friends. President Macron renewed the mandate and the conversations between Prime Minister Modi and the President today allow us to build on existing strengths and success of India-France strategic partnership and also jot out a blueprint for its next phase," said Foreign Secretary Kwatra.