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Ians

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and his French counterpart Florence Parly reviewed their existing military-to-military cooperation, which has increased in spite of pandemic challenges, on Friday.

The discussions were held during third annual Defence Dialogue in New Delhi wherein a wide range of bilateral, regional, defence, and defence industrial cooperation issues were taken up, including the situation in Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover and India's border issues with China and Pakistan.

The two ministers also discussed ways to increase defence cooperation in all domains.

India and France had recently concluded their annual bilateral army exercise, Shakti, with focus on counter-terrorist operations, in France in November 2021.

About her visit to Delhi, the French Minister said: "I am delighted to be here. The friendship between France and India is very precious. The trust we have in each other has developed in recent years to such an extent that distance between the Ganga and the Seine seems to be lessened."

She also said that France truly understands the necessity of Indian content.

"We are fully committed to the 'Make in India' initiative. 'Make in India' has been a reality for the French industry, particularly for defence equipment like submarines," Parly said.

She also said that France is ready to supply more Rafale jet fighters if India wants.

"We're ready to answer any additional needs or requests that could be made by India. We know that an aircraft carrier will soon be delivered. Aircraft are needed. So we're open and ready to provide any more Rafales if this is India's decision," she said.

Defence industrial cooperation was discussed with focus on future collaborations and co-production between the two countries.

The ministers acknowledged their convergences on a number of strategic and defence issues. They expressed commitment to work together to enhance cooperation in bilateral, regional and multilateral forums.

France is the current chair of Indian Ocean Naval Symposium and shall take over the Presidency of the European Union from January 1, 2022. The two Ministers decided to work closely on a number of issues during the French Presidency.

Earlier, Parly called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. She is expected to meet other Indian dignitaries during her visit also.

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