NEW DELHI, India and one of its most trusted strategic partners, France have agreed to intensify counter-terrorism partnership as both countries work on expanding bilateral-regional cooperation, dealing with new threats, support India's defence industrialisation and self-reliance.
In their meeting in New Delhi on Monday, French Defence Minister Sebastien Lecornu and National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval shared close assessments of major global and regional security issues and held a detailed discussion on close India-France cooperation in combating terrorism.
Lecornu continued from where Catherine Colonna - his colleague and Foreign Minister in the government led by Emmanuel Macron - left during her visit to the Indian capital in September.
Colonna, who chose India as her first bilateral visit to Asia since assuming office in May, had also called on NSA Doval, stressing France's continued commitment to the Indo-Pacific region as a resident power and partnership with India as a major pillar of its Indo-Pacific strategy.
The minister not only supported India's stance that terrorism is one of the most serious challenges to global peace and security but also reaffirmed France's allegiance to persisting as India's foremost partner in its path towards strategic autonomy. It wasn't the first time that Paris was underscoring the importance of the mutual trust between France and India.
Indo-French partnership and both countries working together to strengthen multilateralism and defend a free and open Indo-Pacific based on the rule of law were also discussed extensively when NSA Doval chaired the annual Indo-French strategic dialogue in the French capital, last year.
In New Delhi on Monday after visiting India's first indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant in Kochi the day before, Lecornu also held the 4th India-France Annual Defence Dialogue with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on a wide range of bilateral, regional, defence and defence industrial cooperation issues.
"During the dialogue, one of the key areas of discussion was defence industrial cooperation with a focus on 'Make in India'. Future collaborations and potential co-production opportunities were discussed. The Ministers agreed that the technical groups from both countries should meet early next year and take the key cooperation issues forward," said Defence Ministry said in a statement after the meeting.
The two ministers also reviewed the ongoing military-to-military cooperation which has increased substantially in recent years.
"France is an old, faithful and reliable partner of India. Our cooperation is rich and multiple. This 4th defence dialogue between our two countries, which I chaired with Rajnath Singh, showed the convergence of our responses to common challenges in the Indo-Pacific," tweeted Lecornu.
The French Defence Minister, in his meeting with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, conveyed France's full support for India's Presidency of the G20, which is beginning on December 1. Both ministers also discussed global issues of common concern and deepening the India-France strategic partnership as it nears its 25th anniversary in 2023.
The deepening of cooperation between the two countries comes as Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron met on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit held in Bali, earlier this month. (IANS)