Prime Minister Modi and French President Macron review bilateral cooperation in the Indo-Pacific amid the AUKUS dispute

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    India and France have agreed to “act together” in the Indo-Pacific to keep the region stable, rule-based and free from any hegemony, the French President’s office said Tuesday after Emmanuel Macron had a phone call with Prime Minister Narendra Modi Starke Criticism from Paris of the AUKUS partnership (Australia-UK-USA).

    Modi and Macron were reviewing the growing bilateral cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region and the important role the Indo-French partnership plays in promoting stability and security in the region, according to a statement published here by the Prime Minister’s Office.

    After speaking with Macron, Modi tweeted: “I spoke to my friend, President @EmmanuelMacron, about the situation in Afghanistan. We also talked about closer cooperation between India and France in the Indo-Pacific.”

    “We attach great importance to our strategic partnership with France, including in the UN Security Council,” said Modi.

    The French President’s Office also issued a statement on the Modi-Macron talks, tweeted by France’s Ambassador to India, Emmanuel Lenain.

    “They reaffirmed their common commitment to act together in an open and integrative Indo-Pacific, also within the framework of Europe-India relations and European initiatives in the Indo-Pacific. This approach aims to promote regional stability and the rule of law while excluding any form of hegemony, “said the French President’s Office.

    In India’s first reaction to the controversial alliance, Foreign Minister Harsh Vardhan Shringla said when asked that the AUKUS was neither relevant to the Quad nor would it have any impact on its functioning.

    Shringla said that while AUKUS is a security alliance between the three countries, Quad is a plurilateral grouping with a vision for a free, open, transparent and integrative Indo-Pacific.

    “AUKUS is a security alliance between three countries. We are not a party to this alliance. From our point of view, this is neither relevant for the Quad nor will it affect its function,” said Shringla at a media briefing.

    The telephone conversation between Modi and Macron takes place days after the start of a historic security partnership called “AUKUS”, which aims to facilitate deeper cooperation in the Indo-Pacific and ensure a greater division of defense capabilities within the trilateral alliance.

    France has dismissed its ambassadors to the USA and Australia in protest against the trilateral security alliance.

    The alliance resulted in France losing a billion dollar deal to build 12 conventional submarines for Australia. France is also angry about its exclusion from the alliance.

    The PMO statement said Modi and Macron also discussed regional issues, including recent developments in Afghanistan.

    “In this regard, they shared their concerns about the possible spread of terrorism, drugs, illicit weapons and human trafficking, and the need to guarantee human rights, the rights of women and minorities,” said the PMO.

    The Heads of State or Government agreed to maintain close and regular consultations in the spirit of the Strategic Partnership between India and France, which both countries value.

    The French statement said Macron and Modi had expressed deep concern about the situation in Afghanistan.

    “The authorities in office must cut ties with international terrorism, allow humanitarian organizations to operate across the country and respect the fundamental rights of Afghan women and men. The evacuation operations should continue unhindered,” it said.

    Macron reaffirmed France’s commitment to help strengthen 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.

    The bilateral cooperation in all areas, especially in the economic area, will be strengthened, it said.

    The two heads of state and government promised to hold regular talks in order to coordinate in the run-up to the upcoming events, especially the G20 and COP26 on climate change, and to continue their joint measures against the pandemic.

    President Macron welcomed India’s decision to resume vaccine shipments under COVAX, announced the French Presidency.

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