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France to join New Delhi’s Indo-Pacific oceans initiative as both nations explore ways to further boost cooperation.
A comfortable, substantive and productive discussion.
That’s how Indian External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar described his extensive conversations with his visiting French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian, covering all aspects of the bilateral strategic ties as well as regional and global challenges.
“India and France will advance their shared post-COVID agenda through close collaboration,” Dr Jaishankar tweeted shortly after the meeting in New Delhi.
The French minister arrived in the Indian capital on Monday on a three-day visit to explore ways to further boost cooperation between the two countries, including in the Indo-Pacific region.
Describing the bilateral summit as excellent, French Ambassador to India Emmanuel Lenain said: “The ministers discussed all aspects of the bilateral strategic partnership, regional & global challenges and cooperation at the UNSC.”
The key takeaway from Le Drian’s trip so far would certainly be the approval by Paris to join New Delhi's Indo-Pacific Oceans’ Initiative (IPOI) – which was proposed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the East Asia Summit in November 2019.
With defence and security relations between India and France on the upswing in the last few years, the visit assumes critical significance. India had signed an inter-governmental agreement with France in September 2016 for procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets – of which Dassault Aviation, the manufacturer of Rafale jets, has delivered 14 aircraft to the Indian Air Force so far.
As noted by both India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and the French embassy in India, the visit by the French foreign minister has paved the way for further strengthening of bilateral partnership across trade, defence, climate, migration and mobility, education and health sectors in the post-pandemic context, while boosting the strategic depth of cooperation in particularly the Indo-Pacific arena.
The visit assumes even more significance considering that Le Drian is the third high-profile dignitary to visit New Delhi in recent weeks – following US defence secretary Lloyd Austin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov – signaling India’s readiness to carve a robust multilateral strategy of engagement with key stakeholders in the post-pandemic era.
Le Drian is also slated to meet Prakash Javadekar, Minister of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change at a panel discussion on climate change, and participate in the Raisina Dialogue.
India and France enjoy a strategic partnership since 1998 which has been marked by regular high-level exchanges and growing cooperation in diverse areas.