India and France have agreed to “act jointly” in the Indo-Pacific to keep the region stable, rules-based and free of any hegemony, the French president’s office said on Tuesday after Emmanuel Macron held a telephonic conversation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi amidst Paris’ strong criticism of AUKUS (Australia-UK-US) partnership.
According to a statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office here, Modi and Macron reviewed the increasing bilateral collaboration in the Indo-Pacific region and the important role that the India-France partnership plays in promoting stability and security in the region.
After his conversation with Macron, Modi tweeted, “Spoke with my friend President @EmmanuelMacron on the situation in Afghanistan. We also discussed closer collaboration between India and France in the Indo-Pacific.”
“We place great value on our strategic partnership with France, including in the UNSC,” Modi said.
The French president’s office also issued a statement over the Modi-Macron talks which was tweeted by France’s Ambassador to India Emmanuel Lenain.
“They reaffirmed their shared commitment to act jointly in an open and inclusive Indo-Pacific, including in the framework of the Europe-India relationship and European initiatives in the Indo-Pacific. This approach aims to promote regional stability and the rule of law while precluding any form of hegemony,” the French president’s office said.
Meanwhile, replying to a query, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said the AUKUS is neither relevant to the Quad nor will have any impact on its functioning, and they are not groupings of a similar nature, in the first reaction from India on the contentious alliance.
Shringla said while the AUKUS is a security alliance among the three countries, the Quad is a plurilateral grouping with a vision for a free, open, transparent and inclusive Indo-Pacific.
“AUKUS is a security alliance between three countries. We are not a party to this alliance. From our perspective, this is neither relevant to the Quad nor will it have any impact on its functioning,” Shringla said at a media briefing.
The telephonic conversation between Modi and Macron comes days after the launch of a historic security partnership called ‘AUKUS’ that aims to provide for deeper cooperation in the Indo-Pacific and ensure greater sharing of defence capabilities within the trilateral alliance.
France has recalled its ambassadors to the United States and Australia in protest against the trilateral security alliance.
The alliance resulted in France effectively losing a multi-billion dollar deal to build 12 conventional submarines for Australia. France is also upset over its exclusion from the alliance.
The PMO statement said Modi and Macron also discussed regional issues, including recent developments in Afghanistan.
“In this context, they shared their concerns about the possible spread of terrorism, narcotics, illicit weapons and human trafficking, as well as the need to ensure human rights, rights of women and minorities,” the PMO said.
The leaders agreed to maintain close and regular consultations, in the spirit of the India-France Strategic Partnership, which both countries cherish deeply, it said.
The French statement said Macron and Modi expressed their grave concerns about the situation in Afghanistan.
“The authorities in power must cut their ties with international terrorism, allow humanitarian organisations to operate throughout the country and respect the fundamental rights of Afghan women and men. Evacuation operations should continue unhindered,” it said.
It said Macron reiterated France’s commitment to contributing to strengthening India’s strategic autonomy, including its industrial and technological base, as part of a close relationship based on mutual trust and respect between two strategic partners.
Bilateral cooperation in all areas, particularly in the economic sphere, will be boosted, it said.
The two leaders vowed to maintain regular discussions to coordinate ahead of upcoming events, in particular the G20 and the COP26 on climate change, and continue their joint actions against the pandemic.
President Macron welcomed India’s decision to resume vaccine deliveries under COVAX, the French presidency said.