The tone of India’s statement was in sharp contrast to Delhi’s sharp response to remarks from other European leaders and ministers who, in recent weeks, had conveyed concerns over India not condemning Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
Macron and Modi are among a handful of world leaders who have maintained open communication channels with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The two leaders met in Paris late Wednesday and a readout of their meeting came early Thursday. Modi, who was on a trip to Germany and Denmark, made a stopover in Paris to meet Macron before heading home.
In a Twitter post, Macron said “we discussed the different ongoing international crises as well as our strategic partnership” and “we also talked about food security issues and the FARM initiative in which India will play a key role” — FARM is a reference to the Food and Agriculture Resilience Mission. Modi said “my visit to France was brief but a very fruitful one” and that Macron and he “got the opportunity to discuss various subjects”. He also thanked Macron and the French government for “the warm hospitality”.
Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra said, “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.”
He said they spoke “very extensively” on the “cascading effect” of the situation in Ukraine in terms of global food shortages as well as the impact on other commodities such as fertilisers and how the two countries can partner to address some of these challenges.
Asked whether there was any discussion on how India and France could use their friendship or influence to bring the Russia-Ukraine war to some kind of a conclusion, Kwatra said the two leaders exchanged their perspectives on the developments there.
“Prime Minister Modi gave a very elaborate understanding of the space from where the Indian position originated and counts for, which calls for the immediate cessation of hostilities and resolution to the ongoing situation through diplomacy and dialogue,” he said.
The joint statement said “France reiterates its strong condemnation of the unlawful and unprovoked aggression against Ukraine by Russian Forces” — a unilateral statement showing the divergence between India and France. This is similarly worded as the joint statements with Germany, Denmark and Nordic countries.
But it also said, in a language identical to the joint statements with Germany, Denmark and the Nordic countries, “India and France expressed serious concern at the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. They unequivocally condemned civilian deaths in Ukraine and called for an immediate cessation of hostilities to bring parties together to promote dialogue and diplomacy to find an immediate end to the suffering of the people. Both countries underlined the need to respect the UN Charter, international law and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states. The two leaders discussed the regional and global implications of the conflict in Ukraine and agreed to intensify coordination on the issue.”
It said India and France express “deep concern about the current aggravation of global food security and nutrition, already impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, and especially in developing countries They are committed to enabling a coordinated, multilateral response to address the risk of aggravated food crisis because of the conflict in Ukraine, including through initiatives such as the Food and Agriculture Resilience Mission which aims at ensuring well-functioning markets, solidarity and long-term resilience”.
On defence cooperation, the two sides welcomed intense cooperation across all defence domains. They agreed to find “creative ways” for “deeper involvement” of French companies in ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ efforts in defence technology, manufacturing and exports.
Kwatra said the context of defence partnership between India and France is defined by not just trade in different platforms, but 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 ‘Atma Nirbharta’, which also of course extends very strongly to the field of defence,” he said.
The statement also said “maritime cooperation between India and France has reached new levels of trust and will continue through exercises, exchanges and joint endeavours throughout the Indian Ocean”.
“The six Scorpene submarines built at MDL in Mumbai illustrate the level of transfer of technology from France to India, in line with the ‘Make in India’ initiative.”
“As seen in the timely delivery of the Rafale despite the pandemic, the two sides enjoy synergy in the field of defence. Taking forward this momentum, and based on their mutual trust, both sides agreed to find creative ways for France’s deeper involvement in ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’… efforts in advanced defence technology, manufacturing and exports, including through encouraging increased industry-to-industry partnerships,” the joint statement said.
On the Indo-Pacific, the statement said India and France have “built one of the premier strategic partnerships for advancing peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region. They share a vision of a free, open and rules-based Indo-Pacific region, based on commitment to international law, respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, freedom of navigation and a region free from coercion, tensions and conflicts.”