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India, France hold defence dialogue; discuss ways to bolster cooperation in bilateral, regional & multilateral fora

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NEW DELHI (PTI): Defence Minister Rajanth Singh and his French counterpart Sebastien Lecornu held the fourth India-France Annual Defence Dialogue here on Monday and the two leaders shared the commitment to work together on enhancing cooperation in bilateral, regional and multilateral fora, with a focus on the Indo-Pacific region.

Singh said the discussions were "warm and fruitful".

Singh and Lecornu co-chaired the annual defence dialogue. This is Lecornu's first visit to India as Minister of Armed Forces of the French Republic.

Singh held the "Fourth India-France Annual Defence Dialogue with Minister of Armed Forces of the French Republic Sebastien Lecornu in New Delhi today. The meeting was held in a very cordial atmosphere. A wide range of bilateral, regional, defence and defence industrial cooperation issues were discussed in the dialogue," the defence ministry here said in a statement.

They also discussed means to "strengthen maritime cooperation" and increase the scope and complexity of bilateral exercises, it said.

Singh later in a tweet shared pictures from the Dialogue.

"Had warm and fruitful discussions with the Defence Minister of France, Mr Sebastien Lecornu during the fourth India-France Annual Defence Dialogue in New Delhi today. A wide range of bilateral, regional & defence industrial cooperation issues were discussed during the dialogue," he wrote on the micro-blogging site.

Lecornu also shared a tweet in French on the Dialogue.

Ambassador of France to India Emmanuel Lenain shared Lecornu's tweet with an English translation of the French minister's tweet.

"France is India's long-standing, loyal & reliable partner. Our coop is rich & multifaceted. This 4th Defence dialogue which I co-chaired with Min @RajnathSingh , showed the convergence of responses to our common challenges in the #IndoPacific. - Minister @SebLecornu," the envoy tweeted.

The French ambassador also tweeted about fourth India-France Annual Defence Dialogue.

"Ministers @SebLecornu & @RajnathSingh today held the Annual Defence Dialogue, ranging from the #IndoPacific to #MakeInIndia projects, and joint drills. They agreed to strengthen our defence coop in all areas crucial for strategic autonomy & tackling our common challenges," he wrote.

The two ministers also discussed ways to bolster defence industrial cooperation with focus on 'Make in India', the defence ministry said in the statement.

They reviewed the ongoing military-to-military cooperation which has increased substantially in the recent years.

The two leaders noted with satisfaction that India and France recently held their bilateral Air Exercise 'Garuda' at Air Force Station, Jodhpur successfully, the statement said.

"During the dialogue, one of the key areas of discussion was defence industrial cooperation with a focus on 'Make in India'. Future collaborations and potential co-production opportunities were discussed. The ministers agreed that the technical groups from both the countries should meet early next year and take the key cooperation issues forward," it said.

They recognised their "convergences on number of strategic and defence issues and shared the commitment to work together on enhancing cooperation in bilateral, regional and multilateral fora, with a focus on the Indo-Pacific region," the statement said.

France is the current chair of Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) and Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) and both countries cooperate closely in these fora, officials said.

As part of his visit to India, Lecornu on Sunday made a day-long trip to headquarters, Southern Naval Command and visited India's first indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant, officials said.

The French minister of Armed Forces stated that he was highly impressed with INS Vikrant. France is one of India's most trusted strategic partners and both countries look forward to celebrating 25 years of their strategic partnership in 2023, it added.

Earlier in the day, Lecornu laid a wreath at National War Memorial here to pay tribute to the fallen soldiers.

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