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India, France agree on deeper French involvement in 'Atmanirbhar Bharat' efforts in Defence sector

Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets President of France Emmanuel Macron, at Elysee Palace, Paris, on Wednesday, May 4, 2022. (Photo: PTI)

PARIS (PTI): Welcoming the ongoing "intense cooperation" across all defence domains, India and France have agreed to find "creative ways" for "deeper involvement" of French companies in 'Atmanirbhar Bharat' efforts in defence technology, manufacturing and exports.

A joint statement issued after Prime Minister Narendra Modi met French President Emmanuel Macron in  Paris on Wednesday underscored that the long-standing armament cooperation is testimony to the mutual trust between the two countries.

"Both sides welcomed the ongoing intense cooperation across all defence domains," it said, noting that joint exercises (Shakti, Varuna, Pegase, Desert Knight, Garuda) illustrate efforts towards better integration and interoperability wherever possible.

As seen in the timely delivery of the Rafale fighter jets 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 'Atmanirbhar Bharat' (Self-reliant India) efforts in advanced defence technology, manufacturing and exports, including through encouraging increased industry to industry partnerships," the joint statement said.

At a special media briefing, Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra said the context of defence partnership between India and France is defined by not just trade in different platforms, but it also extends to co-development, co-designing, co-manufacturing.

"And I think what you also need to keep in mind is that this is also very much in sync and in line with our own domestic policy of 'Aatmnirbharta', which also of course extends very strongly into the field of defence," he said in response to a question.

"So, I think 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," Kwatra said.

In the joint statement, both sides also reaffirmed the commitment to the success of the strategic Jaitapur EPR project for access to reliable, affordable and low carbon energy, and welcomed the progress achieved over the last months. They will increase the contacts in the coming months to achieve new progress.

The statement underscored that the 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.

The six Scorpene submarines built at MDL, Mumbai illustrate the level of transfer of technology from France to India, in line with the "Make in India" initiative, it noted.

India and France have strengthened cooperation between their cyber security agencies in an increasingly digitalised world.

"Based on a convergent outlook, they agree to join forces in promoting cyber norms and principles in order to counter cyber threats and agree to upgrade their bilateral cyber dialogue with a view to contributing to a peaceful, secure and open cyberspace," the statement said.

Building upon the implementation of the Indo-French roadmap on cyber security and digital technology, India and France reiterate their willingness to deepen their cooperation on exascale technology, based upon the fruitful collaboration between C-DAC and ATOS, which includes making supercomputers in India, it said.

The two sides also agree to work together for more secure and sovereign 5G/6G telecom systems.

Both sides agreed to maintain a strong coordination in the framework of the G20. France reiterated its steadfast support for India's bid for a permanent membership of the UN Security Council as well as membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

Building on a great tradition of over 60 years of technical and scientific space cooperation, and 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 have also agreed on setting up a bilateral strategic dialogue on space issues.

"It will bring together experts from space and defence agencies, administration and specialised ecosystem 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 at the earliest," the statement said.

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