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Macron’s India visit: India, France to unveil Pacific cooperation plan

A pact between the national security councils of India and France to protect the security and sanctity of documents pertaining to national security will also be signed after a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Macron on March 10.

india Updated: Mar 09, 2018 07:27 IST
Macron India visit,India-France ties,Pacific cooperation plan
Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) says goodbye to French President Emmanuel Macron after a ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe on the last leg of his four-nation visit in Paris, on June 3, 2017. (AFP File Photo)

India and France will come up with a joint vision statement on the Indo-Pacific-- on the lines of a similar US-India declaration-- to coordinate their strategic objectives in the region during a visit by French President Emmanuel Macron starting on Friday, officials said.

The ambitious blueprint envisions a trilateral naval exercise separately with the United Arab Emirates and Australia, and a logistics agreement with France for the Indian Ocean region that would give India access to French naval bases.

A pact between the national security councils of the two countries to protect the security and sanctity of documents pertaining to national security will also be signed after a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Macron on March 10, officials said. Macron will take part in the founding conference of the International Solar Alliance on March 11.

The term Indo-Pacific has gained currency recently across diplomatic and security circles in the US, Australia, India and Japan as the countries devise ways to deal with an aggressive China in the region.

Beijing prefers ‘Asia-Pacific’ but to many the term places an expansionist China too firmly at the centre of the region. Like India, France too is eager to expand its footprint in the Indo-Pacific and the two countries, along with Britain, Japan and the United States, conducted naval exercises in the Pacific. France is also engaged in defence cooperation with Pacific countries such as New Zealand, Australia and the United States.

A road map to cooperation on the Indo-Pacific, where the two countries will coordinate their positions on defence and security matters, including through expansion of their joint naval exercises, would be a key outcome of the meeting between Modi and Macron.

“France is an important strategic partner of India. We are both democratic countries that share common interest in the Indian ocean and in the larger region, which is working for a free, prosperous and inclusive Indo-Pacific region,” a foreign ministryofficial said on condition of anonymity.

Officials said the India-France cooperation would not be parallel to that among the Indo-Pacific quad, which brings together India, the United States, Japan and Australia.

“France has remained a benign power in the Indian Ocean and stood by India even during difficult times, including after the Pokharn II nuclear tests under former PM (Atal Bihar)Vajpayee,” said another official.

The agreement on logistics in the Indian ocean would help India expand its footprint in the region. From Reunion Island to the naval base Héron in Djibouti, on the Horn of Africa, to Abu Dhabi in the UAE, France has key naval bases.

Meanwhile, France has offered India 36 more Rafale fighter jets and to build six more advanced stealth submarines in India that will be an upgraded version of the Scorpene submarine. Six Scorpene-class submarines, designed by French firm Naval Group (formerly DCNS SA) are being built by Mazagon Dock Limited in Mumbai.

First Published: Mar 09, 2018 07:22 IST