Ukraine, global food crisis, defence partnership underscore India-France talks

Published on May 05, 2022 01:09 PM IST

The two countries expressed deep concern about the aggravation of global food security and nutrition, which has already been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, and underlined their commitment to a coordinated, multilateral response to address the risk of aggravated food crisis because of the Ukraine conflict

Prime Minister Narendra Modi (right) with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Wednesday. (TWITTER PHOTO)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi (right) with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Wednesday. (TWITTER PHOTO)

NEW DELHI: India and France have called for an immediate end to hostilities in Ukraine to promote dialogue and diplomacy, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron agreed to step up coordination to tackle the global implications of the conflict.

The two leaders, during their meeting in Paris on Wednesday, condemned civilian deaths in Ukraine and underlined the need to respect the UN Charter, the international law and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states. Modi earlier joined his counterparts from five Nordic states during a summit in Copenhagen to emphasise for an immediate end to hostilities and to back the rules-based international order.

Modi travelled to France after the India-Nordic Summit and separate meetings with prime ministers of Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden in the Danish capital. The Ukraine crisis has figured in all legs of Modi’s three-nation tour of Europe and the Indian side has stressed the need to find a negotiated settlement.

New Delhi and Paris have expressed serious concerns over the conflict and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, “unequivocally condemned civilian deaths”, and sought an “immediate cessation of hostilities to bring parties together to promote dialogue and diplomacy to find an immediate end to the suffering of the people”, said a joint statement issued after the meeting between Macron and Modi.

The two leaders discussed the regional and global implications of the Ukraine conflict and “agreed to intensify coordination on the issue”, the statement said. France reiterated its “strong condemnation of the unlawful and unprovoked aggression against Ukraine by Russian forces”, it added.

Foreign secretary Vinay Kwatra told reporters late on Wednesday that the two leaders have agreed close coordination and engagement is important so that “India and France can play a constructive role in the evolving situation”.

Modi outlined to Macron the Indian position, which calls for immediate cessation of hostilities and resolution of the situation through diplomacy and dialogue, he said. The two leaders exchanged views on the “cascading effect” of the situation in Ukraine, including global shortages of food and commodities, such as fertiliser, and how India and France can partner to address some of these challenges.

“There is a very clear understanding of each other’s position and they did agree to stay in touch and coordinate very closely. So that as the situation evolves, they can both individually or together play a constructive role in this situation...so that all these challenges...can be resolved,” Kwatra said.

The joint statement further said that the two countries expressed deep concern about the aggravation of global food security and nutrition, which has already been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, especially in developing countries, and the two sides stressed on their commitment to a coordinated, multilateral response to address the risk of aggravated food crisis because of the conflict in Ukraine, including through initiatives such as the Food and Agriculture Resilience Mission (FARM).

Modi was among the first foreign leaders to meet Macron following his re-election and Kwatra said the discussions between the two leaders allowed India and France to build on the existing strengths of the bilateral strategic partnership and to frame a blueprint for the next phase of the relationship.

In the context of the bilateral defence partnership, the two leaders discussed how the two countries can partner more strongly in co-designing, co-development and co-production of defence equipment in India, Kwatra said.

Following the construction of six Scorpène-class submarines in Mumbai with the transfer of technology from France and the delivery of 36 Rafale combat jets despite the pandemic, the two sides agreed to find “creative ways” for France’s deeper involvement in the ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ (self-reliant India) initiative in advanced defence technology, manufacturing and exports, including through industry-to-industry partnerships, the statement said.

Modi and Macron also extensively discussed climate change and how the two countries can partner more strongly so that green technologies can be brought together, in terms of the capacities of both sides, to address the global challenge, Kwatra added.

India and France will work together to implement the India-European Union (EU) Connectivity Partnership, and the two sides welcomed the launch of the India-EU Trade and Technology Council that will foster high level coordination on strategic aspects of trade, technology and security, the joint statement said.

The two sides also agreed to launch a bilateral strategic dialogue on space issues that will bring together experts from space and defence agencies, administration and the specialised ecosystem to discuss security and economic challenges in outer space and principles applicable to space, as well as forge new areas of cooperation. The first dialogue in this format will be held this year.

Besides agreeing to work on more secure and sovereign 5G and 6G telecom systems, India and France also reaffirmed the commitment to the strategic Jaitapur nuclear power project for access to affordable and low carbon energy and welcome the progress achieved in recent months. “They will increase the contacts in the coming months to achieve new progress,” the joint statement said.

The two countries also expressed serious concern over the humanitarian situation and violation of human rights in Afghanistan. They backed a peaceful, secure and stable Afghanistan, and emphasised the need for respect of its sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity and non-interference in its internal affairs. They also called for an inclusive and representative government in Kabul and respect for rights of women, children and minorities.

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