NEW DELHI: Gravely concerned over growing terrorism, India and France today decided to strengthen counter-terror cooperation, and asked the international community to oppose the countries which are financing, sheltering and providing safe havens to terrorists.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj held wide-ranging talks with her French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian, during which they also decided to strengthen cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), a development which comes barely days after India held quadrilateral talks with Japan, Australia and the US in Manila on the sidelines of India-ASEAN Summit.
The two ministers discussed key regional and international issues as well as the visit of the French President to India next year.
"We expressed grave concern on growing terrorism and decided that we need to fight the evil together. We appealed to all countries to oppose those financing, sheltering and providing safe havens to terrorists," Swaraj said at a joint press event with the French minister.
Though her statement did not name Pakistan, the remarks were in a veiled reference to it.
She said they also discussed concrete measures to expedite operations at the Jaitapur nuclear power project.
As part of the nuclear cooperation agreement between India and France signed in 2008, Paris is to help build atomic power reactors for New Delhi under which the French firm EDF will build six atomic reactors of 1650 MW each at Jaitapur, some 500 kms south off Mumbai, with National Power Corporation India Limited (NPCIL) as operator.
The two sides discussed growing cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region and the issue of maritime security, Swaraj said.
"The aim is to ensure free trade on international seas, tackle piracy and maritime terror. We decided to secure sea channels and build capabilities through engagements in bilateral as well as multilateral foras," she said.
On his part, the French minister said he was here to lay the groundwork for the visit of the French president which would take place early next year during the summit of the International Solar Alliance.
Describing his talks "very useful and substantive", he said, "On matters such as combating terrorism, maritime security, cooperation in the Indian Ocean –- where France and India are two countries belonging to the Indian Ocean Rim -– we have a complete commonality of views, which calls for the strengthening of our partnership."
Earlier this year, France, along with the US and the UK, had co-piloted a proposal to ban JeM chief Masood Azhar by the UN. However, the proposal was thwarted by China.
The French minister also termed Indo-French strategic tie-up as "a partnership of trust based on democratic values" and "partnership of heart".
He said France was keenly desire to pursue and further strengthen the exceptional strategic partnership that has united India and France since 1998.
It was France's first strategic partnership in Asia and for 20 years it has been enriched and continues to be concretised from year to year, he added.
"We share not only values but also the same analysis of major international issues. Our bilateral relations must be understood as an expression of this common analysis," he said.
The visiting dignitary also talked about robust defence ties, saying the bilateral defence partnership is well known through the Rafale and Scorpène projects – to mention only the most emblematic ones – but it is far broader than that, similar to our cooperation in the Indian Ocean.
He also said the partnership for the planet was at the core of France's global diplomacy.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Emmanuel Macron have expressed their desire to maintain the momentum created with the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the founding of the International Solar Alliance.
"They wished to have the State visit coincide with the first summit of the International Solar Alliance here in Delhi. This is very positive and will enable us to enhance the attractiveness of this international organisation, which will play a crucial role in helping developing countries gain access to sustainable energy at lower costs," he said.
The minister also invited Indian students, researchers and artists to visit France.
He will inaugurate 'Bonjour India' festival in Delhi and Jaipur, which will offer the best of this partnership of hearts through 300 events across 33 Indian cities.