<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Gravely concerned over growing terrorism, India and France on Friday 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 held discussions on key regional and international issues as well as the proposed 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 2008 nuclear cooperation agreement between India and France, Paris is to help build atomic power reactors for New Delhi. French firm EDF will build six atomic reactors of 1,650MW 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 where both India and France have a crucial presence and the issue of maritime security, Swaraj said.”The cooperation, which could include other willing strategic partners, is aimed at ensuring the safety of international sea-lanes for unimpeded commerce and communications, countering maritime terrorism and piracy, building maritime domain awareness, capacity building and greater coordination in regional and international fora in the Indian ocean region,” she said.Asserting that India attaches high value to its strategic partnership with France, Swaraj said the two countries value each other as natural partners in preserving a multipolar rule-based international order, upholding norms and principles and working together for global peace and stability, inclusive growth and sustainable development in all parts of the world.Describing cooperation in the areas of defence, space and civil nuclear sector as the three principal pillars of the strategic partnership, Swaraj said India-France defence ties have been growing very strong encompassing institutional interactions, joint military exercises, acquisition, training, and research and development.The two sides have also agreed on the need to deepen technology and manufacturing partnership, as well as strengthen India-France military logistics coordination.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”.”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 Scorp ne 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.On trade ties, Swaraj said the bilateral trade turnover of $10.95 billion dollars suggests that there is tremendous scope for trade growth.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.
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