India and France on Monday discussed defence industrial cooperation with a focus on ‘Make in India’ as well as means to strengthen maritime cooperation and increase the scope and complexity of bilateral exercises. This was discussed during the 4th India-France annual defence dialogue chaired by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and his visiting French counterpart Sebastien Lecornu.
“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 the countries should meet early next year and take the key cooperation issues forward,” a Defence Ministry statement said. This is the first visit of Mr. Lecornu to India as French Minister of Armed Forces.
“A wide range of bilateral, regional and defence industrial cooperation issues were discussed during the dialogue,” Mr. Singh said on Twitter.
The Ministers reviewed the ongoing military-to-military cooperation, which has increased substantially in recent years, the statement said, also noting that they recognised their convergences on a number of “strategic and defence issues and shared the commitment to work together on enhancing cooperation in bilateral, regional and multilateral fora, with a focus on the Indo-Pacific region.”
France is the current chair of Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) and Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) and both countries cooperate closely in these fora.
During the two-day visit, Mr. Lecornu made a day-long trip to Headquarters of Southern Naval Command in Kochi on Sunday and also went onboard the indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant. “The French Minister acknowledged India’s indigenous potential and self-reliance. The discussions ranged from enhancing cooperation in areas of mutual interest to the maritime challenges in the IOR,” the Navy said in a statement.
The visiting French Minister also met External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and the National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.
“The Armed Forces Minister’s visit to India reaffirms France’s engagement in the Indo-Pacific and India’s centrality in the French strategy for the region,” the French Embassy said in a statement. It comes in a year that has seen an acceleration of the French and Indian armed forces’ endeavours towards even greater interoperability through joint air, navy, and army exercises, such as IMEX 22 in March, Varuna in March-April, and the recently-concluded Garuda in October-November, it noted.
The two Air Forces recently held their bilateral Air Exercise ‘Garuda’ at Air Force Station, Jodhpur.
Ahead of the dialogue, Mr. Lecornu visited the National War Memorial and paid tribute to India’s soldiers who have laid down their lives in the line of duty and also inspected a triservice guard of honour.