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French President Macron may visit India in first half of 2023 | India News

NEW DELHI: Preparations for an expected visit by French President Emmanuel Macron to India, situation arising out of the Ukraine conflict and ways to expand bilateral defence cooperation figured prominently during a fresh round of strategic dialogue between the two sides on Thursday, people familiar with the matter said.
The two sides are working on the dates for Macron’s visit even as it emerged that French fighter Rafale was much ahead of American F/A-18 Super Hornet in the multi-billion dollar contract to supply 26 deck-based jets to the Indian Navy.
There was a report in the French media on Thursday indicating that the deal could be inked during Macron’s visit to India. Last year, the Indian Navy carried out detailed evaluation of the two jets and submitted a report to the defence ministry for a final decision.
“The two sides are exploring a visit by President Macron to India around March. But dates are yet to be finalised,” said one of the people cited above, adding it figured in the ‘strategic dialogue’.
The 36th round of India-France strategic dialogue co-chaired by NSA Ajit Doval and Emmanuel Bonne, the Diplomatic Advisor to the French President, covered all aspects of the Indo-French strategic partnership, defence and security cooperation and counter-terrorism cooperation among others.
Bonne also met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar.
“During the strategic dialogue and the meetings, India and France reiterated their commitment to take forward their strategic partnership to ensure peace, stability and security in the Indo-Pacific based on common beliefs in rules-based international order and strategic autonomy,” the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said.
It said the two sides discussed global security environment, expanding the scope of defence cooperation to include co-development of futuristic technologies in line with India’s priorities of Make in India and ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ initiative.
The MEA said the agenda included discussions on the situation in Afghanistan, Africa, South East Asia, Eurasia and cooperation in areas of nuclear energy, space and cyber domains.
“Both sides also agreed to strengthen bilateral defence and security cooperation including in the South West Indian Ocean Region and the Indo-Pacific and pursuit of new initiatives in critical and emerging technologies,” the MEA said.
“Both sides reiterated that in view of the emerging uncertainties and volatile global security environment, there was a need for closer cooperation between India and France, including in the UNSC and other multilateral forums,” it said.
A French readout said the agenda of the dialogue covered all aspects of the Indo-French strategic partnership including defence and security cooperation, major international and regional issues, including the war in Ukraine, and cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.
“On each topic, the two sides agreed to raise the level of ambition of our cooperation even further with the goal of accelerating efforts towards strategic autonomy,” it said.
Besides Modi and Jaishankar, Bonne also called on India’s G20 Sherpa Amitabh Kant.
“He stressed France’s full support for India’s G20 presidency and conveyed President Macron’s message that Indo-French cooperation would be key to tackling global challenges in 2023,” it said.
“In this respect, Mr Bonne also praised the excellent cooperation with India at the United Nations Security Council over the past two years, and reiterated France’s support for a permanent UNSC seat for India,” it added.
On the Navy’s proposed procurement of the deck-based jets, sources said Rafale M jet is the front-runner for the deal.
Last year, the Navy shortlisted Boeing’s F/A-18E Super Hornet and Rafale M aircraft produced by the French aerospace major Dassault Aviation for the procurement.



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