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Transcript of Special Briefing by Foreign Secretary on Prime Minister’s visit to France (May 04, 2022)

May 05, 2022

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: A very good evening to all of you so late in the day. Thank you very much for joining us at this time, but we just came out of the rather extended meeting between Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and President of France, Emannuel Macron. And as you know, we are just going to leave immediately from Paris and this press conference/media briefing is just to ensure that we have a chance to brief you on these very important discussions that took place this afternoon. In fact, we just came in from Copenhagen early in the afternoon. To give you the sense of the visit self, the conversation that took place, we have the great privilege of having with us here Shri Vinay Kwatra, Foreign Secretary of India. Also accompanying us on the dias is our Ambassador to France, Shri Javed Ashraf, as well as Shri Sandeep Chakraborty, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of external Affairs. Looking after Europe West Division.

I would now request Foreign Secretary Sir to make some remarks and then we'll try to take a few questions but do keep in mind literally the Prime Minister's aircraft is waiting. So, thank you.

Shri Vinay Kwatra, Foreign Secretary: Thank you very much Ambassador Javed Ashraf, Sandeep, Arindam and friends from the media. Thank you for coming here this late hour for this press briefing. Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has just concluded his brief visit to Paris, during which he met President Macron, congratulated him on being re-elected as the President of France and held extensive discussions on a range of issues of bilateral, regional and global importance. The Prime Minister last visited France in August 2019.The two leaders have stayed in regular touch through calls and letters. They also met on the side-lines of G20 Summit last year.

India and France are strong strategic partners and the two leaders are also good friends. President Macron renewed mandate and the conversations between Prime Minister Modi and the President today allow us to build on existing strengths and success of India-France strategic partnership and also jot out a blueprint for its next phase. As I said earlier, the two leaders held wide-ranging discussions on all the key areas of bilateral engagement, including in defence, space, civil nuclear cooperation and people-to-people linkages. They also discussed regional and global issues including developments in Europe and in the Indo-Pacific. India and France see each other as key partners in the Indo-Pacific.

On Ukraine, there was a broad understanding of each other's position. The two leaders agreed that close coordination and engagement was important. So that both India and France can play a constructive role in the evolving situation. In sum it was a short yet, substantive visit. A joint statement on the discussion is being released. For us a path for accelerated progress in the relationship, lies ahead of us. The Prime Minister has invited President Macron to visit India at the earliest possible opportunity. I would also like to mention that on the side-lines External affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar also met his French counterpart, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian during this visit. I would like to stop here and if there are any questions, would take them.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you very much, sir. Let me start with the few. Just, we'll probably group them together. Please introduce yourself and the organization, you belong to before putting the question.

Sanjay Suri: Sir, Sanjay Suri from CNN news 18 TV, you mentioned talks on defence. Did those cover Rafael? We imagine they inevitably did. And was there any agreement towards upgradation? Further upgradation and further orders for the Air Force and the Navy?

Danish khan: Thank you very much. This is Danish Khan from Times Now. Taking from the earlier question about the defence. There were these reports about certain contracts, which were taken off regarding the Navy thing? Was that something that was discussed and if you could just share a bit more and also was there anything specific about climate action that was discussed between both the leaders? Thank you.

Shri Vinay Kwatra, Foreign Secretary: Thank you. I think let me take the defence part first. I think what you need to realize is that when the two strategic partners speak, it covers the discussions in a format which is not necessarily focused on transaction or individual platforms. India and France, as I said earlier on, are very strong strategic partners and have also very strong defence partnership. The context of Defence partnership is defined in case of our two countries by not just trade in different platforms, but it is also extends to co-development, co-designing, co-manufacturing. And I think what you also need to keep in mind is that this is also very much in sync and in line with our own domestic policy of 'Aatmnirbharta', which also of course extends very strongly into the field of Defence. So, I think discussions today in the field of Defence were focused more on how the two countries can partner more strongly in the field of co-designing, co-development, co-production of different defence equipment in India.

As regards the climate action, which you asked. I think the India and France go back a very long time in terms of their partnership on environment conservation, climate action etc. I think, Javed you were here during COP 21, when Indian and France, Prime Minister Modi and the then President launched the International Solar Alliance, a very key action-oriented space aimed at in a very unique way, harnessing the permanent energy of sun but also in the process leading to very organic and a very strong basis for climate action. Yes, it was discussed extensively. They discussed how the two countries can partner together more strongly in order so that the environmentally friendly technologies, the green technologies can be brought together in terms of the capacities of France and capacities of India can be brought together in order to really address this Global challenge that we all face.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you, Sir. If there's no questions, sorry. Ma’am.

Poonam Joshi: I'm Poonam Joshi from ABP News. I just wanted to ask if there were any discussions about both the leaders who are friends with Vladimir Putin, the leader of Russia. How they could use their influence and their friendship too, kind of.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Sorry. Could you repeat again that first part of it.

Poonam Joshi: I'm saying that the two countries are kind of, you know, in good relations with Russia, both India as well as France. And so, were there any discussions how they could use their friendship or their influence to bring this Russia and Ukraine war to some kind of a conclusion.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I thought I saw one hand. Okay, so you have a query. Yeah, please will try to be really brief on this one. The last one.

Speaker: Sir, when you speak of co-production in defence, could that possibly cover production of further Rafales at HAL?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I think that perhaps the larger than the remit of the briefing here on the Prime Minister's visit. This is probably on the Ministry of Defence, but I let Foreign Secretary to answer.

Shri Vinay Kwatra, Foreign Secretary: I think, let me first counter the Ukraine question. Yes, the developments in Ukraine did come up for discussion between the two leaders and they exchanged their perspectives on the developments there. Prime Minister Modi gave a very elaborate understanding of the space from where Indian position originated in counts for, which calls for the immediate cessation of hostilities and the resolution to the ongoing situation through diplomacy and dialogue.

The two leaders also spoke very extensively, exchanged views very extensively on the cascading effect of the situation in Ukraine, in terms of Global Food shortages, shortages of Commodities, such as fertilizer and how the two countries can partner together in order to address some of these challenges which are very real and felt on the ground. And, as I mentioned earlier on, there is a very clear understanding of each other's position and they did agree to stay in touch and coordinate very closely. So that as the situation evolves, they can both individually or together play a constructive role in this situation, in order so that all these challenges, which I talked about can be resolved.

I think with regard to the co-production possibilities. Look, it's a very broad scope, and it's a very broad field of substance and anything can be discussed and is possible in terms of what, two countries can eventually agree to co-produce. So, I don't have a very specific answer to give you on that. But I think it includes many possibilities. Thank you.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you very much, Sir, for your detailed responses. Thank you also to our Ambassador Javed Ashraf as well as to Joint Secretary Sandeep Chakraborty.

Thank you all for joining us today evening. Good evening.

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