PARIS : There’s one “less” problem at the border with China, foreign minister S Jaishankar said Wednesday as he confirmed that disengagement at friction PP-15 in eastern Ladakh had been effected to the satisfaction of both countries.
The minister was speaking after a meeting with his French counterpart Catherine Colonna who said France shared India’s concerns in the Indo-Pacific where China continued to pose “many challenges” and where international law had been undermined.
Jaishankar’s comment is significant as it came a day before PM Narendra Modi comes face to face with President Xi Jinping – for the first time in 3 years – in Samarkand on the margins of the SCO summit. India wants disengagement at the remaining friction points before it resumes normal bilateral exchanges with China.
With Beijing having twice blocked this year UN designation of Pakistan based operatives of terror groups as global terrorists, Jaishankar also said any country which blocks designation of terrorists, particularly when the merits of the case are very apparent, it does so at the peril of its own “interests and reputation’’.
“Terrorists are listed because they are a threat to the entire international community and not to pursue any narrow, national agenda,’’ said Jaishankar, as he appreciated France’s “clear-cut’’ position on terrorism. Counter-terrorism was one of the issues India and France focused on during the meeting as they look to bring more proposals in the Security Council for designation of terrorists.
A resident power in the Indo-Pacific, France has been acting increasingly as India’s gateway to Europe and has encouraged the EU to play a more important geopolitical role in the region in light of Chinese expansionism.
Talking about defence cooperation, Colonna said no other country was ready to share its advanced defence technologies as much as France. “And we are proud to be one of your very first defence partners, not only in industrial terms but also operational ones.
Colonna also discussed with Jaishankar the proposed G7 price cap for Russian oil. Unlike some other European countries though, France has been more understanding of India’s position on the Ukraine conflict and its need to import energy from Russia.
Colonna warned though that when the “core principles’’ of international rules-based order are flouted anywhere, they are weakened everywhere, including in the Indo-Pacific where, she said, respect for international law has been undermined for some time now. “India knows this better than anyone else,’’ she said, adding the Ukraine war will not affect France’s unwavering commitment to the region.
The 2 sides discussed increasing energy prices and food insecurities caused by the conflict in Ukraine. Colonna said Russia’s Ukraine war was responsible for these trends and not the sanctions imposed on Russia. Jaishankar reiterated India’s position that the best way to address the situation is through dialogue and diplomacy and recalled that 2 leaders who had regularly engaged with both Russia and Ukraine were PM Narendra Modi and President Emmanuel Macron.
As part of their cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, both Ministers agreed to work towards the establishment of an Indo-Pacific Trilateral Development Cooperation Fund to support India-based innovators and start-ups in taking their innovations to third countries, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region, said the Indian government in a statement. “It would also facilitate development projects, especially in the framework of the International Solar Alliance,’’ said Jaishankar.
Both Ministers also expressed their interest in resuming cooperation under the India-France-Australia Trilateral mechanism and looked forward to the trilateral ministerial meeting to be held in New York on the sidelines of the UNGA, later this month, according to the Indian statement.
Colonna called on Modi after her meeting with Jaishankar and discussed bilateral and other issues of mutual interest with him. “The relationship of trust that unites India and France is an essential asset for taking up common challenges, defending multilateralism, future of the Indo-Pacific, raising the climate ambition,’’ tweeted French ambassador Emmanuel Lenain after the meeting, adding France will support Modi’s LIFE initiative at G20.