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'Have political will, ability to ward off China': India tells France

Source : The Times of India

'Have political will, ability to ward off China': India tells France
Defence minister Rajnath Singh shakes hand with his French counterpart Florence Parly (ANI photo)

India on Friday told France it has the requisite “political will and capacity” to rebuff any misadventure by China on its land borders, even as visiting French defence minister Florence Parly too said Beijing was getting more aggressive in the entire Indo-Pacific region, especially in the South China Sea.

At the annual defence dialogue (ADD) with France, defence minister Rajnath Singh conveyed India’s firm stance, backed by “appropriate deterrence on the ground”, against China’s unilateral attempts to alter the status quo in eastern Ladakh in violation of all bilateral agreements, said sources.

Singh also raised the issue of the multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) passing through Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir, the turmoil in Afghanistan and the increasing threat of terrorism emanating from the region. With India and France acknowledging “their convergence” on a number of strategic and defence issues as well as the need to coordinate closely on counter-terrorism, the ADD discussed measures to strengthen cooperation across all domains, including maritime security, information-sharing, aerospace and defence-industrial collaboration.

“The India-France strategic partnership is more relevant today than ever before. A wide range of bilateral, regional and defence-industrial cooperation issues were discussed in the ADD,” Singh said. Speaking at an event earlier in the day, Parly said cooperation in several areas including fighting climate change is required with a major country like China. “China is also a partner for trade and commerce. But we see as well that China is getting more and more aggressive in the region, and it is even more specific when it comes to the (South) China Sea,” she said.

The French minister, who also met PM Narendra Modi and NSA Ajit Doval, said India and France shared the view that the Indo-Pacific should remain an open, free and inclusive region, with freedom of navigation and trade for all without any “coercion”.

With 33 of the 36 Rafale jets already inducted by the IAF under the Rs 59,000 crore deal inked in September 2016, Parly also said France could supply additional fighters – including the aircraft carrier-borne variant – if India wanted them.“Using the same aircraft is a real asset and strength. I am sure that there is room for new developments. We are ready to answer any additional needs or requests that could be made by India,” she said.

Identifying terrorism as a major challenge facing both France and India, she also expressed concern over the situation in Afghanistan. “Terror has struck France and Europe repeatedly over the last few years and has not spared the Indo Pacific, including India. This fight is not over and will continue for many years to come… this threat needs to be addressed in a comprehensive manner, from the Levant to Africa,” she said.

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