India, France to expand defence, maritime security partnership

Tribune News Service New Delhi, November 6 India and France have agreed to strengthen bilateral defence and security partnership through enhanced intelligence and information-sharing, operational cooperation and bolstering mutual capabilities.

The annual India-France Strategic Dialogue, co-chaired by NSA Ajit Doval and French President’s Diplomatic Adviser Emmanuel Bonne in Paris, agreed to pursue new initiatives in maritime, space and cyber domains, according to an official release. The French Presidency of the EU in the first half of 2022 is expected to give a further shape to EU’s engagement in the Indo-Pacific region — security, connectivity and economic development included. With France and India aiming for a major defence and security partnership in the Indo-Pacific, NSA Doval called on French President Emmanuel Macron, Defence Minister Florence Parly and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

The areas discussed were expansion of bilateral and regional cooperation, ways to deal with new threats and support to India’s defence industrialisation. Doval also discussed the long-term challenges in the Indo-Pacific, Afghanistan, Africa, Southeast Asia and West Asia. With territories retained since colonial time in the Indo-Pacific, France is a major player and has been seeking to step up its activities bilaterally with regional maritime powers as well as through the EU.

During his last visit to India in January, Bonne had called on PM Narendra Modi and interacted with NSA Doval. He had said France was supportive of India on Kashmir and “does not allow China to play procedural games” at the UNSC. But French opposition to the Chinese is nuanced.

Three weeks later, at the China-France annual dialogue co-chaired by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Bonne said Beijing was “an important strategic cooperative partner of France.” Defence and security, that usually denotes closeness between nations, was not mentioned.

In April, Bonne and Wang Yi spoke on the phone.

Bonne said France was ready to strengthen communication with China in civil nuclear energy.

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