Paris/New Delhi: A day after a major French defence company said it is withdrawing from India's P-75 India (P-75I) project for building submarines for the Indian Navy, India and France agreed “to find creative ways for France's deeper involvement” in India's Atmanirbhar Bharat efforts, a joint statement said after talks between PM Modi and President Macron.

French defence major Naval Group said on Tuesday that it is unable to participate in the P-75 India project under which six conventional submarines are to be built in India for the Indian Navy due to conditions mentioned in the request for proposal (RFP) related to air independent propulsion (AIP) system, a report said. Asked about the report and also whether acquisition of more Rafales had been discussed during the talks between PM Modi and President Macron, Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra said that India and France are very strong strategic partners and have also a very strong defence partnership.

He said the defence partnership between the two sides extends to co-development, co- designing, co- manufacturing, which he said is in sync with India's Atmanirbhar policy. He said the discussions today in the field of defence “were focused more on how the two countries can partner more strongly in the field of co-design, co-development, co-production of defence equipment in India .”

The Joint statement, issued after the talks, said: “Both sides welcomed the ongoing intense cooperation across all defence domains. Joint exercises (Shakti, Varuna, Pegase, Desert Knight, Garuda) illustrate efforts towards better integration and interoperability wherever possible. “Meanwhile, maritime cooperation between India and France has reached new levels of trust and will continue through exercises, exchanges and joint endeavours throughout the Indian Ocean. “India and France underscored that the long-standing armament cooperation is testimony to the mutual trust between the two sides. “The six Scorpene submarines built at MDL in Mumbai illustrates the level of transfer of technology from France to India, in line with the "Make in India” initiative. "

As seen in the timely delivery of the Rafale despite the pandemic, the two sides enjoy synergy in the field of defence. “Taking forward this momentum, and based on their mutual trust, both sides agreed to find creative ways for France's deeper involvement in the "Atmanirbhar Bharat” (Self-reliant India) efforts in advanced defence technology, manufacturing and exports, including through encouraging increased industry to industry partnerships,” it said.