Two decades since India, then facing heat from Western nations in the aftermath of nuclear tests, signed its first strategic partnership with France in 1998, the partners have stepped up cooperation in the Indian Ocean significantly.
The French President, Emmanuel Macron and he PM, Narendra Modi at delegation-level talks agreed on a reciprocal logistics agreement between their armed forces as well as a joint strategic vision document on the Indian Ocean region. This is along the lines of a vision document announced with the US on the Indo-Pacific in 2015.
The agreement with France will facilitate authorised port visits by naval vessels and reciprocal logistics support during joint exercises, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
'I consider today’s agreement on reciprocal logistics support between our armies as a golden step in the history of our close defence cooperation. Second, both of us believe that in future the Indian Ocean region will play a very important role in the happiness, progress and prosperity of the world,' Modi said.
With China expanding military bases in the Indo-Pacific from Hambantota to Djibouti, the two countries shared their concern on 'respect of international laws by all states, in particular freedom of navigation and overflight.'
India has a coastline of 7,500 km, more than 1,380 islands and 2 million sq km of exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the region. France has a military base in Reunion Island and 1.6 million of its citizens reside in the territory owned in the Indo-Pacific, including a 9.1 million sq km of EEZ. Indian and French space agencies will now provide end-to-end solution for detection, identification and monitoring of vessels in the region.
'We do not want militarisation of the region but our partnership will add to the stability of the region,' Macron remarked.
Overall, 14 agreements were exchanged between the two sides, including on exchange and reciprocal protection of classified or protected information and finding a way forward to expedite the stalled Jaitapur nuclear power plant to be built by the French state-controlled EDF. Once installed, it will be the largest nuclear power plant in the world with a total capacity of 10,000 MW. Transfer of technology, guaranteed fuel supply for the plant and liability issues have been sticking points in negotiations that began in 2009.
On counter-terrorism, the joint statement names groups including Al-Qaida, ISIS, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Toiba with an agreement to strengthen counter-terrorism efforts at multilateral fora such as the UN, Financial Action Task Force and G20.