India and France have set up a dialogue to discuss security and economic challenges in outer space

New Delhi: Taking forward the "great" tradition of over 60 years of technical and scientific space cooperation, India and France have agreed on setting up a bilateral strategic dialogue to address the contemporary challenges that have arisen in space, in particular, maintaining its secure access.

"India and France have agreed on setting up a bilateral strategic dialogue on space issues," read a joint statement by the Ministry of External Affairs on Wednesday after the talks between the two countries during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit.

This dialogue will see the corroboration of various experts from space and defence agencies. Furthermore, the first India-France strategic dialogue on space issues will be held in 2022 at the earliest.

"It will bring together experts from space and defence agencies, administration and specialised ecosystem to discuss security and economic challenges in outer space, the norms and principles applicable to space as well as unveil new areas of cooperation. The two sides agreed to hold the first dialogue this year at the earliest," the statement added.

Moreover, the countries also advanced their partnership in the cyber security space. Both sides hailed peaceful, secure and open cyberspace.

In an increasingly digitalised world, "India and France have strengthened cooperation between their cyber security agencies". Based on a convergent outlook, they agreed to "join forces in promoting cyber norms and principles in order to counter cyber threats and agree to upgrade their bilateral cyber dialogue with a view to contributing to a peaceful, secure and open cyberspace."

India and France also reaffirmed their commitment to building one of the premier strategic partnerships for advancing peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.

Indo-France Indo-Pacific partnership encompasses defence and security, trade, investment, connectivity, health and sustainability. Besides bilateral cooperation, India and France will continue to develop new partnerships in various formats with like-minded countries in the region and within regional organisations.

Issuing a joint press statement after the talks between the two countries during the visit of PM Modi, the two countries "reiterated their strong support for a peaceful, secure and stable Afghanistan".

"India and France expressed serious concern on the humanitarian situation and violation of human rights and reiterated strong support for a peaceful, secure and stable Afghanistan, emphasizing respect for its sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity and non-interference in its internal affairs," the joint statement read.

Notably, the situation of human rights in Afghanistan has worsened since the collapse of the Afghan government and the Taliban's return to power in August last year. Although the fighting in the country has ended, serious human rights violations continue unabated, especially against women and minorities.

Both the countries also showed their commitment to tackling climate change and their resolve to achieve the objectives of the International Solar Alliance.

"India and France also agreed to explore opportunities to jointly work on just energy transition pathways including under G7 to accelerate the deployment of renewables and access to affordable and sustainable energy," the statement said.

The statement also informed that Prime Minister Modi has invited President Macron to visit India at the earliest possible opportunity. PM Modi emplaned for India after the conclusion of his engagements in Paris on Wednesday.