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India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and French Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian in New Delhi. Image Credit: PTI

New Delhi: India and France on Saturday reiterated their resolve to jointly fight the global scourge of terrorism following delegation-level talks headed by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and French Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian.

“In our talks today, we reiterated our resolve to continue our fight against terrorism,” Sushma Swaraj said in a joint address to the media with Le Drian after the talks.

“Cooperation among us in this field is also there in international forums like the FATF [Financial Action Task Force],” she said.

Le Drian said that India knows in France it has a partner that has never failed it and on which it can count on in the future.

“This holds true on the strategic front, notably with the strengthening of our exchanges on the Indian Ocean, which today are fast developing, and our shared commitment to fighting terrorism, as we mark 10 years since the deadly Mumbai attacks,” he said.

Over 170 people were killed and more than 300 wounded in the series of terror attacks in Mumbai in November 2008 carried out by the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba terror outfit.

In her address, Sushma Swaraj said that both India and France were implementing their outlined action in joint strategic vision cooperation in the Indian Ocean region.

“This will not only benefit India and France, but also other countries and stakeholders in this area,” she stated.

She also described defence cooperation between India and France as “historical and comprehensive”.

“It includes institutional exchanges, joint production, joint military exercises and training,” she said.

“As you know, our Defence Minister [Nirmala Sitharaman] visited France in October which was very useful. Now the two sides are working towards deepening and expanding these large contacts, especially at the operational and service level.”

Cornerstone of space collaboration

Sushma Swaraj said that joint vision on space cooperation is the cornerstone of space collaboration between India and France.

Noting that space agencies of both countries are working hard in this direction, Sushma Swaraj said: “The recent launch of India’s heaviest Satelite GSAT-11 is an outstanding example of our partnership in the space sector. On this occasion, I thank the government of France and the Ariane launch vehicle for all possible help provided to ISRO for the successful launch.”

Climate change fight

She also said that today India and France were among the leading countries fighting against climate change in the world.

“By holding the inaugural conference of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) in New Delhi in March and its first general assembly in October, our resolve has been strengthened to achieve the highest objective of this work,” she said.

Launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and then French President Francois Hollande at the Paris climate summit in 2015, the ISA was conceived as a coalition of solar resource-rich countries to address their special energy needs and provide a platform to collaborate on dealing with the identified gaps through a common, agreed approach.

It is open to all 121 prospective member countries falling between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.

Africa a priority

Sushma Swaraj also said that Africa was a priority of foreign policy for both India and France.

“Prime Minister Modi recently mentioned the principles of relations with Africa,” she said referring to Modi’s speech at the Ugandan Parliament in July this year in which he charted out 10 principles of India’s African reach-out.

“The second Indo-French dialogue on Africa held on December 11, 2018, explores the possibilities for joint efforts to exchange ideas for the latest developments in Africa and contribute toward peace and prosperity in Africa,” Sushma Swaraj said.

On trade ties, she said that India welcomed the role of French companies in smart cities, clean energy, environment, transport and infrastructure sectors.

“The bilateral trade between us last year was ₤9.62 billion [Dh39.98 billion],” Sushma Swaraj said.

“If we have to achieve the target of ₤15 billion by 2022, then we need to do more work.”

Security Council membership

She also expressed India’s gratitude to France for its continued support for New Delhi’s bid for permanent membership of the UN Security Council and membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

Le Drian said that French companies are investing and innovating in India under the ‘Make in India’ programme.

“On the fronts of urban development and digital economy, our companies are present and working to build the India — and the France — of tomorrow,” he said.

He also called for a joint collaboration between the two countries in the field of cinema which, he said, “cannot but produce masterpieces”.

“We firmly believe this: it is through culture, tourism and people-to-people ties that we will forge strong links between the French and the Indian peoples,” Le Drian stated.