New Delhi, March 10 (IANS) India and France on Saturday agreed to work together in the Indian Ocean region, strengthen defence cooperation and add new momentum to the fight against terrorism as the two sides signed 14 agreements, including in the areas of space cooperation and high speed railways, following bilateral talks headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron here.
“Both of us agree that the Indian Ocean region will play a significant role in the future for the peace, prosperity and development of the world,” Modi said in a joint address to the media along with Macron following the talks.
“Whether it be environment, maritime security and resources, freedom of navigation or overflight, we are committed to strengthen our cooperation,” he stated.
Modi said the two countries were releasing a Joint Strategic Vision for cooperation in the Indian Ocean region in what can be seen as a strong China given Beijing’s increasing influence in the region.
On his part, Macron said that both France and India are giving a new momentum in their strategic partnership against terror.
Stating that there is a long history of cooperation in defence, security, space and high technology, Modi said that there bipartisan support in both countries on the bilateral relationship.
“We share a deep defence relationship and we see France as one of our most trusted partners in this area,” he said.
“All services of our defence forces regularly hold discussions and conduct joint exercises. We have strong ties in defence equipment and production. We welcome France’s commitment to Make in India in the defence sector.”
The Prime Minister said that an agreement for provision of reciprocal logistics support between the armed forces between the two countries signed on Friday was a golden step towards close defence cooperation.
Modi also said that people-to-people ties, especially the youth, is the most important dimension for the bright future of the bilateral relationship.
“We want our youth to know, see, understand, live, and work in each other’s countries so that thousands of ambassadors emerge in the process,” he said.
For this, he said, two agreements were signed following Saturday’s talks – one on mutual recognition of academic qualifications and the other on mobility and migration partnership.
Modi said that the India-France relationship extends to all areas, including railways, urban development, environment, security and space.
Among the agreements signed were those on cooperation on high speed and semi-high speed rail, sustainable urban development, credit facility of 100 million for funding of smart city projects, exchange of information between the governments and technical experts of the two countries in the field of environment and climate change and provision of end-to-end solution for detection, identification and monitoring of vessels in the regions of interest for France and India.
Macron arrived here on Friday on a four-day visit to India during the course of which he and Modi will co-chair the founding conference of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) which was launched by the Indian Prime Minister and then French President Francois launched during the Paris climate summit in 2015.
The ISA is 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.
Some 60 countries have signed the framework agreement of the ISA and 30 submitted the instruments of ratification.
The founding conference on Sunday will be attended by 23 of those who have submitted the instruments of ratification and 24 of those who have signed the framework agreement.
Modi said that a number of heads of state and government and ministers from other countries would join him and Macron at the conference.
“We are committed to the success of the International Solar Alliance,” he stated.
Earlier on Saturday, Macron was accorded a ceremonial welcome at the Rashtrapati Bhavan following which he told the assembled media that he had three purposes for this visit.
He said the first one is to open a new era in the India-France Strategic Partnership “in terms of defence and security, in terms of research and science, especially in terms of our youth, higher education and science”.
“It is absolutely critical because our two democracies have common challenges regarding terrorism, a lot of common risks, a lot of threats,” Macron said.
“The second purpose of this trip is to organise this International Solar Alliance (conference),” he said.
“The third objective of this visit is to deliver the message that France should be the best partner for India, especially in Europe, the entry point for Europe.
“And I aim to have more and more Indian citizens coming to France studying, becoming a partner, creating start-ups and I want my country to be your best partner in Europe.”
Following the ceremonial reception, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj called on Macrn discussed ways to deepen the Starteguc Partnership the two countries share.
During the course of his stay in India, the French President will also visit Agra and Varanasi where he will inaugurate a solar power plant built by a French company.