Foreign minister S Jaishankar on Tuesday held wide-ranging discussions with his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian that covered issues related to “contemporary security and political importance" – a pointer to the fact that the dialogue would have included the current India-China issue.
The discussion between the two foreign ministers came after India and France exchanged views at the foreign secretary-level on regional and global issues of mutual interest on Monday. Also on Monday, French defence minister Florence Parly expressed her country's “steadfast and friendly support" to India as she condoled the deaths of 20 Indian army personnel including a colonel rank office in this month’s deadly border clash with China.
"Wide-ranging discussion with French FM @JY_LeDrian. Covered issues of contemporary security and political importance," Jaishankar said in a Twitter post.
"Also agreed to address COVID-related challenges in health and aviation. Thanked him for the strong support in UNSC and look forward to working together," he said.
The discussion took place against the backdrop of a major military standoff between India and China at multiple locations in eastern Ladakh for the past seven weeks. Tensions have escalated dramatically after 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a violent clash in Galwan Valley on 15 June.
In recent years, the India-France strategic partnership has seen a great deal of evolution with the two sides closely collaborating on issues at the UN and the Indo-Pacific.
In a letter to Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, French defence minister Parly described the deaths as a “hard blow against the soldiers, their families, and the nation," a person familiar with the matter said.
“In these difficult circumstances, I wish to express my steadfast and friendly support, along with that of the French armed forces. I request you to kindly convey my heartfelt condolences to the entire Indian armed forces as well as to the grieving families," she said in the missive.
Tensions have been high despite talks at the military and diplomatic levels between India and China with the latter moving to consolidate its position in friction areas including the banks of the Pangong Tso lake and the Galwan valley where the deadly clash of 15 June took place. The two countries have mobilized troops across their borders backed by artillery, heavy vehicles, air support and missiles.
Recalling that India is France's strategic partner in the region, she reiterated her country's deep solidarity, the person cited above said. The French minister also expressed her readiness to meet Shri Rajnath Singh in India to follow up on their ongoing discussions, the person added.
Parly’s letter came on a day France also committed to expedite deliveries of 36 Rafale aircraft that India had ordered from Dassault Aviation. India is to get six of the fighter jets – that a former Indian air force chief Birender Singh Dhanoa described as a “gamechanger" for the Indian Air Force as well as India’s security calculations as a whole -- on 27 July.
Separately on Monday, India and France held foreign secretary level consultations via video conference. Indian foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla and Secretary General of the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs of France, François Delattre, “reviewed the progress of the multi-faceted cooperation between the two countries, exchanged views on regional and global issues of mutual interest, and on the COVID-19 pandemic," a statement from the Indian foreign ministry said.
“India welcomed France’s joining of the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure and France welcomed India’s participation in the UN Security Council in 2021-22," the Indian statement added.