India, France agree to strengthen ties in Indo-Pacific area

Updated on Sep 15, 2022 01:47 AM IST

As part of their partnership for the Indo-Pacific, France and India agreed to establish an Indo-Pacific Trilateral Development Cooperation Fund to support sustainable innovative solutions in the region.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with French foreign minister Catherine Colonna during a meeting in New Delhi. (PTI)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with French foreign minister Catherine Colonna during a meeting in New Delhi. (PTI)
By, New Delhi

India and France on Wednesday agreed to enhance their cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, including through trilateral partnerships with Australia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), in areas such as maritime security, trade and climate action.

External affairs minister S Jaishankar and his visiting French counterpart, Catherine Colonna, also discussed the Ukraine conflict and common efforts to respond to its global consequences, especially food security and rising energy prices. Colonna blamed food security issues on Russia’s war against Ukraine, and said France and India could jointly move an initiative at the G20 to support the most vulnerable countries.

A key part of the discussions between the two ministers focused on joint efforts for a free, open and rules-based Indo-Pacific. Jaishankar acknowledged France as “very much an Indo-Pacific player” and a country with a long-standing presence in the Indian Ocean, and said both sides can work together to ensure peace, stability, security and progress in the region.

Colonna is currently on her first bilateral visit to Asia since assuming office in May. The visit comes against the backdrop of India’s military standoff with China on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and concerns in France about China’s actions across the Indo-Pacific, including in the Taiwan Strait.

As part of their partnership for the Indo-Pacific, France and India agreed to establish an Indo-Pacific Trilateral Development Cooperation Fund to support sustainable innovative solutions in the region. The two sides will hold a trilateral ministerial meeting with Australia on the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York this month. Another trilateral with the UAE will be upgraded to the ministerial level following an inaugural meeting of officials in July.

“One reflection of the expanding comfort between India and France is the interest in creating trilateral formats with other partners,” Jaishankar told a joint media interaction with Colonna after their talks.

The two countries are accelerating the implementation of a joint roadmap on the blue economy and ocean governance that was adopted in February, and India will be the first country of honour at the Sea Tech Week in Brest, France, during September 25-27. In the coming weeks, France will send an expert to India’s National Institute of Ocean Technology.

Colonna said France wants the Indo-Pacific to be an “area of stability, rule of law, prosperity and environment protection”, and the two countries are working to provide tangible solutions in the region. The European Union (EU) too is a fully committed actor in the Indo-Pacific and France is mobilising the EU to conduct more projects in the region, especially for sustainable infrastructure, she said.

“What applies to Europe and the Indo-Pacific applies everywhere: France and India reject a world where ‘might makes right’,” she added.

Colonna also raised the Russian invasion of Ukraine, saying it has strongly challenged fundamental principles that underpin the global rules-based order. “A permanent member of the Security Council is...trampling on all the principles on which our international order is based by waging a devastating war of aggression on the territory of another sovereign state,” she said.

“When the core principles of the international rules-based order are flouted anywhere, they are weakened everywhere, including in the Indo-Pacific, where respect for international law has been undermined for some time now,” she added.

Colonna acknowledged the history of India’s relationship with Russia but said this doesn’t prevent India and France from acting to deal with the consequences of the Ukraine conflict and telling the “Russian president that this conflict has to come to an end”. Jaishankar too called for a return to the path of dialogue and diplomacy.

“If you look...at the major countries of the world, two leaders who have been regularly engaging both sides to the conflict are Prime Minister Modi and President Macron. I think the end objective, which is a return to the negotiating table, is something that we share,” he said.

Colonna met Modi and conveyed Macron’s message of friendship and cooperation. Modi conveyed his desire to welcome the French President to India at an early opportunity.

Colonna also met National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and discussed defence and security cooperation.

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