India, France and the United Arab Emirates on Saturday unveiled an ambitious roadmap for cooperation in a plethora of areas including defence, energy and technology under a trilateral framework, a move that comes amid the geopolitical turmoil triggered by the conflict in Ukraine.
The plan was finalised during a phone conversation among External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, his French counterpart Catherine Colonna and UAE's Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan. A joint statement said it was acknowledged that defence is an area of close cooperation between the three countries.
"Therefore, efforts will be undertaken to further promote compatibility, and joint development and co-production, whilst seeking out avenues for further collaboration and training between the three countries' defence forces," it said. India, France and the UAE also agreed to boost cooperation in food security and circular economy and vowed to focus on key issues such as single-use plastic pollution and desertification. The trilateral initiative will serve as a platform to expand cooperation between the development agencies of the three counties on sustainable projects besides ensuring greater alignment of their respective economic, technological, and social policies with the objectives of the Paris climate agreement, according to the statement.
There has been an upswing in India's bilateral engagement with France as well as the UAE. The three foreign ministers met on September 19 last year for the first time in a trilateral format on the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York. In the meeting, they agreed to establish a formal trilateral cooperation initiative, with the aim of expanding cooperation in various fields of mutual interest.
"It is in this context that a phone call between the three Ministers was held today to adopt a roadmap for the implementation of this initiative," the statement said. In a tweet, Jaishankar said they took forward discussions on projects that will benefit the region. "Productive conversation with colleagues, French FM @MinColonna and UAE FM @ABZayed today evening. Took forward discussions of New York on building practical projects that will benefit the region," he said.
The statement said the three sides agreed that the trilateral initiative will serve as a forum to promote the design and execution of cooperation projects in the fields of energy, with a focus on solar and nuclear energy, as well as in the fight against climate change and the protection of biodiversity, particularly in the Indian Ocean region. "For this purpose, the three countries will explore the possibility of working with the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) to pursue concrete, actionable projects on clean energy, the environment, and biodiversity," it added.
In support of the endeavours, a range of trilateral events will be organised in the framework of the Indian Presidency of the G20 and the UAE's hosting of COP-28 in 2023, respectively. The three countries also agreed to expand their cooperation through initiatives such as the Mangrove Alliance for Climate led by the UAE and the Indo-Pacific Parks Partnership led by India and France.
It was agreed that the three countries should seek to focus on key issues such as single-use plastic pollution, desertification, and food security in the context of the International Year of Millets-2023. The three sides also underlined their keen desire to cooperate in the field of the circular economy under the aegis of India's Mission LiFE, the statement said. It said the three countries will also seek to strengthen exchanges of views on emerging threats from infectious diseases, as well as on measures to fight against future pandemics.
In this regard, cooperation in multilateral organisations such as World Health Organization (WHO), Gavi-the Vaccine Alliance, the Global Fund, and Unitaid will be encouraged. "Further, the three countries will attempt to identify tangible cooperation on implementing the 'One Health' approach, and support the development of local capacities in biomedical innovation and production within developing countries," it said.
"As countries at the very forefront of technological innovation, the development of trilateral cooperation between relevant academic and research institutions and efforts to promote co-innovation projects, technology transfer, and entrepreneurship will be encouraged," the joint statement said. In recognition of the critical role social and human bonds play in their constructive partnership, France, India, and the UAE will ensure that this trilateral initiative will be leveraged as a platform to promote cultural cooperation, through a range of joint projects, including heritage promotion and protection, it added.