Updated: October 31, 2020 7:18:22 am
India has dealt with the “worst crisis in decades” on its border with China with “firmness and maturity”, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla told an audience in Paris on Thursday.
Shringla, who spoke at the Institut Français des Relations Internationales (IFRI), underlined “respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty”, and “peaceful resolution of disputes” as he described India and France as “strong partners” in the Indo-Pacific.
Earlier this week, in an obvious reference to China, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar too had referred to “respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty” after the Indo-US 2+2 ministerial meeting.
On Friday, Shringla met his counterpart, Francois Delattre, Secretary General in the French Foreign Ministry. The Indian Embassy said they had “a dialogue with great convergence” and “extraordinary breadth and depth” — consistent with the growing strength and relevance for a key strategic partnership for both countries, and which sets the stage for further progress.
Shringla also met with Alice Guitton, director general in charge of International Relations and Strategy in the French Foreign Ministry, on Friday.
Shringla’s comments on Thursday were a clear signal to Beijing that New Delhi and Paris shared similar concerns over China’s belligerence in the Indo-Pacific region, and at the India-China Line of Actual Control (LAC).
Paris is an unusual diplomatic stage for an Indian Foreign Secretary to comment on Chinese aggression. But it ties in with Europe’s realisation about China as a pre-eminent threat — both France and Germany have come up with their Indo-Pacific strategies.
France is the Foreign Secretary’s first non-neighbourhood stop in India’s pandemic-age diplomacy. “France is India’s oldest strategic partner and our friend for all seasons,” a source privy to his interactions in Paris said.
Sources said Shringla met government officials and a cross-section of leading French academics, mediapersons, and members of think tanks on Friday. There was great interest in strengthening the dynamics of the India-France strategic relationship, the sources said.
The Foreign Secretary conveyed the importance of France as a steadfast friend across multiple domains. “From terrorism to global warming, from maritime security to sustainable development, from norms-based international institutions to technology and innovation, we are inevitably on the same side of the court,” the source said.
Shringla told his French interlocutors that this has been a challenging year due to Covid and the stresses on the international system. “While multilateralism needs to be reformed and upgraded, its hard-won gains must be nourished. As instinctive multilateralists, India and France have to shoulder responsibilities together, especially at the UNSC where we will work together,” he is learnt to have told the French interlocutors.
“Few countries have recognised the dangers of climate change with the clarity and consistency of India and France. The International Solar Alliance and Paris agreement are testimony to this. We have not waited for others, we have moved ahead,” he told them.
It is important to take the same “globalist, enlightened philosophy to new frontiers — whether conceptual such as in cyberspace or geographical such as the Indo-Pacific. Here and elsewhere, India and France are voices of wisdom and stability and actors for the greater common good”, the sources quoted him as telling the French side.
A day after he conveyed India’s support for President Emmanuel Macron, Shringla is learnt to have told the French that “terrorism and the radicalism that gives rise to it are the most chilling form of censorship”.
“They threaten our cherished democratic freedoms and our shared republican ideals. The events of the past week in Paris and Nice have been horrific. India stands by France. We cannot pretend such actions come from simply lone-wolf initiatives and misguided individuals. There is an infrastructure of radicalism, including its online manifestations, that comes into play. It has the backing of states and organised institutions. You know who they are. We cannot and should not postpone a coordinated and definitive response,” Shringla conveyed to the French interlocutors, according to sources.
An attacker armed with a knife killed three people inside a church in the southern French city of Nice on Thursday, the third attack in two months that French authorities have attributed to Muslim extremists.