French Prez Macron, upset over AUKUS, dials PM Modi, discusses Indo-Pacific
French President Emmanuel Macron telephoned Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday to discuss cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region against the backdrop of France’s anger over the creation of a new security alliance by Australia, the UK and the US.
Modi tweeted after the call that he and Macron had discussed “closer collaboration between India and France in the Indo-Pacific” and the situation in Afghanistan. “We place great value on our Strategic Partnership with France, including in the UNSC,” the prime minister said.
A readout from the French president’s office said the two leaders “reaffirmed their shared commitment to act jointly in an open and inclusive Indo-Pacific”, with this approach aimed at promoting “regional stability and the rule of law, while precluding any form of hegemony”.
AUKUS, a security alliance between Australia, the UK and the US, was unveiled by the leaders of the three countries on September 15 and its first initiative is aimed at equipping Australia with nuclear-powered submarines built with American and British technology.
France was upset by the creation of the alliance as it led to the scrapping of a $90-billion programme to build 12 French-designed submarines. France has recalled its envoys to Australia and the US because of the “exceptional gravity” of the situation.
India has publicly sought to distance itself from AUKUS because of its strong strategic relations with Australia, France and the US.
A statement from the external affairs ministry said Modi and Macron “reviewed the increasing bilateral collaboration in the Indo-Pacific region, and the important role that the India-France partnership plays in promoting stability and security in the region”.
They also discussed regional issues, including developments in Afghanistan, and “shared their concerns about possible spread of terrorism, narcotics, illicit weapons and human trafficking”, and the need to ensure human rights.
“The leaders agreed to maintain close and regular consultations, in the spirit of the India-France Strategic Partnership, which both countries cherish deeply,” the statement added.
The readout from the French president’s office said the two sides would act jointly in the Indo-Pacific within the framework of the Europe-India relationship and European initiatives in the region.
Macron reiterated “France’s commitment to contributing to strengthening India’s strategic autonomy, including its industrial and technological base, as part of a close relationship based on mutual trust and respect”, the readout said. Bilateral cooperation in all areas, particularly in the economic sphere, will be boosted, it added.
The two leaders expressed “grave concerns” over the situation in Afghanistan. “The authorities in power must cut their ties with international terrorism, allow humanitarian organisations to operate throughout the country and respect the fundamental rights of Afghan women and men. Evacuation operations should continue unhindered,” the readout said.
The two sides will maintain regular discussions to coordinate at upcoming events, especially the G20 and COP26 on climate change, and continue joint actions against the pandemic. Macron welcomed India’s decision to resume vaccine deliveries to COVAX, the readout said.
External affairs minister S Jaishankar also met his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian on the margins of the UN General Assembly on Tuesday. “A comprehensive discussion with FM @JY_LeDrian on Afghanistan, Indo-Pacific and other contemporary issues,” Jaishankar tweeted.