Imparting a fresh momentum to their strategic partnership, India and France have signed 14 agreements in diverse areas, including trade, defence, counter-terrorism, space and culture. The two sides also inked an inter-governmental agreement, clearing the way for the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets by India.
Welcoming French President Francois Hollande, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “I am honoured to welcome you as our guest for the Republic Day celebrations in Delhi. India is privileged to share one of its oldest and most trusted strategic partnerships with France.” Mr Hollande is on a three-day visit to India. He is India’s guest of honour at the Republic Day celebrations, the fifth French leader to be conferred this honour.
In the wake of recent terror attacks in Pathankot and Paris in November 2015, the two leaders underscored the need for closer global cooperation in combating terrorism. “Our joint statement on counter terrorism underscores our determination to combat all forces that sponsor, shelter & support terrorism,” Mr Modi said.
Bolstering the strategic partnership between the two countries, they laid the foundation for building new commercial partnerships in areas ranging from smart cities, locomotives and railways to nuclear power.
The prized Rafale deal, however, remains a work in progress. “Leaving out financial aspect, India and France have signed Inter-Governmental Agreement on purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets,” Mr Modi said.
In his statement to the media, Mr Hollande spoke about climate change, international solar alliance, defence cooperation and combating terrorism. “Today, there are all kind of terrorist threats that are hovering around countries such as India and France and one of the main aims of my visit here is to reinforce and strengthen the cooperation against terrorism between our two countries,” Mr Hollande said.
Focus on counter-terrorism
Bolstering counter-terror cooperation was a major issue on the agenda, with the two sides coming out with a separate joint statement against terrorism.
“The President of France and the Prime Minister of India agreed to intensify cooperation between the Indian and French security forces in the fields of homeland security, cyber security, Special Forces and intelligence-sharing to fight against criminal networks and tackle the common threat of terrorism,” said the joint statement.
“France will not be deterred by the threat of IS. Our full effort is to eradicate them,” Mr Hollande said. The two countries would also be working closely on intelligence sharing, Mr Hollande said. India and France also came out with a roadmap to combat all forms of trafficking, particularly in the Indian Ocean.
India and France also discussed the implementation of the COP21 agreement which was signed in Paris in December 2015. “Once again it underlines our shared values that we aim to protect and also represent across the world. We are going to follow up on all the decisions that were taken at the COP21 as far as action against climate change is concerned but in addition to that we will be further strengthening our economic relations in all areas from agriculture to space,” Mr Hollande said.
Mr Hollande also spoke about the International Solar Alliance and about the inaugural of the National Institute of Solar Energy (NISE) later in the day. He also appreciated the strong cultural bonding between the two countries.
France was the first country to forge a strategic partnership with India in 1998. It was also the first country to sign a bilateral nuclear agreement with India.
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