Russia’s war in Ukraine is a “naked aggression” without any provocation and France and India are working together to mitigate the consequences of the conflict including global food and energy security, French Ambassador Emmanuel Lenain said.
In an interview to PTI, the envoy said France strongly condemned Russia’s illegal annexation of four Ukrainian regions and described it as a serious violation of both international law and Ukraine’s sovereignty.
Welcoming Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent call to Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the conflict, the envoy said leaders of both India and France are working together to convince Moscow to return to the negotiating table.
“We feel that Putin wants to return to the time of imperialism and that’s exactly what we want to avoid in Europe and anywhere else in the world, especially in this region where I am talking,” he said.
“In the Indo-Pacific too, we do not want this, and I am sure India does not want any neighbour to encroach on borders by pure aggression,” Lenain said.
There has been fresh outrage in Europe over Putin’s announcement on Friday of annexing into Russia four Ukrainian regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia which marked the largest forcible takeover of European territory since World War II.
The ambassador said France “highly respects” India’s autonomy of decision and complimented Modi’s comments during a meeting with Putin in the Uzbek city of Samarkand last month that “today’s era is not of war”.
“I think it was a very welcome remark, as always, and you have seen that President Emmanuel Macron in his speech in New York to the UN General Assembly has mentioned and quoted Prime Minister Modi,” the envoy said.
“That’s exactly the sort of statements we need, to call on Putin to stop this war of aggression and go back to the negotiating table,” he added.
On Russia’s annexation of four Ukrainian regions, Lenain said France strongly condemns the illegal action.
“It is a serious violation of both international law and Ukraine’s sovereignty. It illustrates what I said: Putin wants to return to the ear of imperialism and a world where might makes right. We will continue to stand by Ukraine,” he said.
Calling Russia’s attack on Ukraine a violation of international law, the envoy said leaders of both India and France are working together to convince President Putin to end the war.
“We are working very much together. What can we also do is obviously try to convince Putin to go back to diplomacy, to negotiate. One of the key actions by our leaders in the last few months has been — however difficult it is — to maintain a channel with Putin to try to pass this message,” he said.
France and India have been in touch with each other on the Ukraine crisis and the issue figured prominently during telephonic talks in recent months between Modi and Macron.
“We feel it is a naked aggression by a country on another one, on a democracy, an aggression which was without any provocation and that it is not in keeping with the principles of international order,” Lenain said.
“It is very important that we stand with each other and defend these rules. That being said, on this subject as any others, we highly respect India’s autonomy of decision,” he added.
India has been calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities and resolution of the conflict through dialogue.
“Our two countries are very close because we are highly independent. What can we do together? A lot. We are working on how to mitigate the consequences of the war on food security and energy security,” the envoy said.
“In a crisis like this, weaker countries pay the price. So, we want to take initiatives to alleviate. President Macron has proposed an initiative called FARM on food security and I know that India is very willing to take new initiatives in the run-up to its G20 presidency next year,” he said.
India is taking over the presidency of the G-20 at the grouping’s annual summit in the Indonesian city of Bali next month.
India has abstained from a UN Security Council resolution condemning Moscow’s annexation of parts of Ukraine.
Regarding India-France bilateral ties, the envoy described the friendship between the two countries as “very natural and very strong”.
“First of all, we are the best partners of all. We have been partnering for over 75 years now and we have always stood at each other’s side, in good and in bad times. Our friendship is very natural, very strong,” he said.
“Our strategic partnership is turning 25 next year. It is a partnership of equals and it is a partnership to boost each other’s strategic autonomy. We are two very highly independent countries,” he noted.
The ambassador said the cooperation between the two countries is now expanding to new areas such as artificial intelligence, cyber and the digital domain.
“This partnership, given the level of trust between our two countries, is expanding in all the new areas where our future lies: digital, cyber, AI and many others. It is really the strength of our trust that allows us to go and venture into all these areas,” Lenain said.