Paris. Defence Minister Sitharaman addressed ‘India-France Defence Engagement in a Multipolar World’ at the Institute of Strategic Research (IRSEM) in Paris on October 12.
In her speech, she said that her visit is a reaffirmation of India’s commitment to the strategic partnership with France, especially in the critical areas of defence cooperation.
Sitharaman is on maiden official visit to France on the invitation of French Defence Minister Florence Parly from October 10 – 13.
The Defence Minister said, “Under the new framework for defence industry in India, we are hoping to meet our defence requirements within a framework of joint manufacturing and technology driven partnerships”.
She highlighted a strong India-France strategic partnership, of which the defence ties are a key component, and an active engagement with other like-minded friends and partners, can contribute to furthering peace and security in these testing times.
India presents a major opportunity for the French defence industry. Indian Government’s ‘Make-in-India’ initiative opens doors to not only a huge market but is also an attractive investment destination for defence production and development, including for third country exports. Several of our international partners have already displayed a willingness to expand their presence in the Indian defence manufacturing space.
She said the current international security environment can be characterized as one of rapid change and uncertainty, with swathes of sustained instability and violence posing a grave challenge. The persisting threat of terrorism, or what we in India as well as increasingly in Afghanistan too, more accurately refer to as cross-border terrorism, is a primary security threat.
Sitharaman also said that the interplay between states and non-state actors that are often used as proxies to foment violence has worsened this menace. Areas of continued violence and instability in the Af-Pak region, as well as parts of West Asia and Africa, have functioned as incubators of virulent manifestations of terrorism. This, combined with the issue of foreign terrorist fighters and uncontrolled migration now pose a clear threat to the stability of wider Asia and Europe.
The Defence Minister made special mention about the continued presence of terrorist infrastructure and state support to terrorists in the immediate neighbourhood constantly testing India’s patience. As a responsible power, India has exercised great restraint in dealing with this menace. India and France have long been victims of terrorism.
Disrupting the recruitment, mobilisation and movements of Foreign Terrorist fighters, stopping sources of terrorist financing in dismantling terrorist infrastructure and preventing supply of arms to terrorists all require a concerted effort. She mentioned that in this direction, France is playing a unique role.
Sitharaman underlined in that context, growing India-France maritime cooperation, especially in the Indian Ocean region, will be crucial in order to preserving the strategic interests, in maintaining the safety of international sea lanes for unimpeded commerce and communications in accordance with the international law, for countering maritime terrorism and piracy, for capacity building and for greater coordination in regional/international fora. Such cooperation is for the common benefit of all.
The Defence Minister said at a broader level, high political exchanges have been a hallmark of our ties. Most recently, the very successful State visit by President Emmanuel Macron to India in March this year, and the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Paris in June last year, have elevated Indo-French relationship to a new trajectory.
India has been constantly supportive of recent efforts to bring about peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula through dialogue and diplomacy. Developments in the Middle East and West Asia are of great significance for India.
India has key stakes in this region, which accounts for 66 per cent of our energy requirements and is home to over eight million Indians. Conflict in this region threatens to expand beyond the internal situation in countries such as Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Libya.
India and France are bound by a very deep-rooted thread of military history. She referred to the supreme sacrifice of 9,300 Indian soldiers who laid down their lives on the French soil, fighting in the World Wars. A total of 1,40,000 Indian soldiers fought in various theatres of the First World War in France and Belgium, thousands of miles away from their homeland, for the cause of freedom.
The Defence Minister stated that India’s partnership with other countries aims to contribute a more secure, stable and peaceful environment for all and spur greater prosperity. She further stated that France is an important stakeholder in this effort and both the countries will remain committed to working together towards these objectives.