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Post AUKUS, France looks to India as Indo-Pacific ally

NewsPost AUKUS, France looks to India as Indo-Pacific ally

New Delhi: After a snub by AUKUS (a military pact among the US, UK and Australia), France is learnt to have intensified its efforts to cement deeper ties in the Indo-Pacific region by reaching out to countries “with similar interests”, in what is being seen in diplomatic circles as Paris’ bid to form an informal group. French Minister for Armed Forces, Florence Parly’s visit to India for the Annual Defence Dialogue is being seen by many in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in that perspective as well. During her interactions with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and several diplomats, the French minister emphasised on how New Delhi was an important strategic ally of Paris in the Indo-Pacific region. She also apprised the Indian leadership of her government’s future plans to deal with China in the same region, sources told The Sunday Guardian.

Top MEA sources told The Sunday Guardian that Parly went to the extent of explaining a detailed plan to expand France’s strategic footprints in the Indo-Pacific region to contain China with India’s greater participation. “Definitely, France’s leadership knows how Chinese belligerence is baffling India, no matter where it is,” said an MEA official. Moreover, after being snubbed by AUKUS, France is considering India more valuable as New Delhi is part of the Quad which is also an important formation for the Indo-Pacific.

During their meetings with MEA officials, the French diplomats also ex plained how Paris was deepening strategic ties with Indonesia keeping in view the Indo-Pacific region. The French Foreign Minister recently visited Indonesia to strengthen ties in the region with it further, after the loss of a strategic defence deal with Australia. “The AUKUS military pact for the Indo-Pacific region has cost France a huge submarine deal, and also Paris is under the impression of being left out in key strategic areas,” says a diplomat.

France even accused its allies (read, US and UK) of stabbing it in the back when Australia opted for nuclear-powered submarines to be built with Washington and British technology instead of a multi-billion dollar French submarine programme. Rather, Australia pressed ahead with a trilateral alliance (AUKUS) excluding France, which it said was crucial to tackle the perceived Chinese threat in the region.

With this in view, France’s agenda is to expand its strategic ties with countries such as India vis-à-vis the Indo-Pacific region, sources say. Parly’s different high-level meetings in New Delhi are being seen from that angle also. In another interaction, the French defence minister made it a point to come down heavily on China, saying, “China is getting more and more aggressive in the Indo-Pacific region as well as the South China Sea and there is a need to ensure freedom of navigation and compliance of international rules.”

Sources say that Parly expressed France’s willingness to be liberal with India in terms of giving best defence technology to New Delhi. Top officials told The Sunday Guardian that France will be ready to give nuclear submarines to India which augurs well for New Delhi’s quest augmenting its defence strength. “France wants to have such ties with India that both nations could together focus more on maritime security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific,” say sources. According to sources, the French government has committed to share more information related to maritime security with India that will also include credible inputs about Chinese aggressive activities in the sea. “France is doubling down on other Indo-Pacific relations, including Indonesia and India, in a sense to compensate for losing the Australians,” a diplomat said.


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