France and India have expanded collaboration in monitoring the situation in the Indian Ocean more closely, primarily in view of the Chinese expansion in the area.
India and France are exchanging a lot of information on all the activities that are taking place in the Indian Ocean region as it is a strategic part and the Indian government is very concerned about all the recent developments, be it pirates, terrorism or indeed the Chinese expansion that has taken place over the past few years, a senior French official said.
“We are sharing information in all formats – human, satellite and even electromagnetic as both the countries are worried about the implications that the Chinese expansion in the Indian Ocean region can mean to the international community,” the source said.
The French say that the Chinese expansion has taken place in a very open fashion and China has not hidden its desire to expand its influence and presence in the Indian Ocean. The Chinese have occupied a wide sprinkling of islands, mainly in the South China Sea and even reclaimed the seas to create new islands, on which they have very quickly established control by positioning their defence forces in these new areas.
“But we need to see what it all can mean to the international community, mainly the issues of implication on the international maritime laws on who has access to the area. Their actions give them control over new territory and it can also mean denial of access to the international community to this very strategic part of the world,” the official said, adding, “That is the reason that we have increased our activities in the zone, even though it is so far away from France. It is essential to show that we don’t accept any possible denial of access by any country to a zone that is and should be international waters.”
As a sign of enhanced collaboration between France and India in the key area of defence, notably defence manufacturing, conducting joint maritime exercises and sharing of information, French Defence Minister Florence Parly is in India for a two-day visit, which is essentially a preparatory visit for the upcoming visit to India by the French President Emmanuel Macron, who is slated to visit between December 8-10 for a detailed round of discussions with his Indian interlocutor, Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Macron is expected to bring along a large business delegation as well as several of his ministers and senior bureaucrats as a number of key bilateral issues would be up for discussion during the visit, including strategic ties, defence, renewable energy, smart cities, transport etc.
Parly said that the two sides also reviewed the strategic situation in South Asia, notably the developments in Afghanistan and the threats posed to India by the infiltration by terrorists from Afghanistan.
“Terror was a very important part of my discussion with the Indian officials as they are very concerned about the developments in Afghanistan and Pakistan and we understand their concerns,” she said, adding that terror was increasingly an important part of their discussion and the two countries are collaborating more in developing anti-terror strategies.
Parly will call on Modi later today and then head to Mumbai to visit the Mazagaon Docks Limited where the first French Scorpene submarine built in India is almost ready for sea trials and which will be followed by construction of five more Scorpenes in Mumbai.
Earlier, Parly had met with Indian defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman yesterday and also visited Nagpur where the joint venture between Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence Aerospace Ltd (RDAL) and the French aeronautic giant, Dassault, the maker of Mirage and Rafale jets, is located. The two companies have set up a joint venture, Dassault-Reliance Aerospace Limited to manufacture components for Dassault’s Falcon business jet. Dassault will invest €100 mn in the venture, which is part of the offset obligation of Dassault’s €9.8 bnRafale deal.
Dassault will bring along with it to the Mihan SEZ in Nagpur, where the JV is located, to create the first real ecosystem of aeronautical engineering and manufacturing in India, outside of the public sector Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd’s facilities in Bengaluru.