India, France cement strategic bonding, set stage for Macron’s visit

Amidst the volatile international situation triggered by the Russia-Ukraine war, India and France held their annual strategic dialogue, which focused on enhancing defence cooperation and coordination in the Indo-Pacific, with a view to countering China.

India’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Emmanuel Bonne, Diplomatic Adviser to French President Emmanuel Macron, held discussions in the Indian capital on January 5. The talks covered a wide gamut of issues, including recent developments around the Ukraine war. The talks have set the stage for a visit by President Macron to India, likely February/March.

“The latest talks have reinforced the status of France as India’s key strategic partner in a shifting world order. France will continue to be India’s major supplier of defence equipment and nuclear reactors,” said Manish Chand, Editor-in-Chief, India and the World and Director, Centre for Global India Insights (CGII), a think tank focused on global affairs.

Indo-Pacific Connect

The geopolitical situation in the Indo-Pacific, which has seen increasing forays by China, figured prominently in discussions.  During the talks, the two countries decided to advance their strategic partnership to “ensure peace, stability and security in the Indo-Pacific based on common beliefs in rules-based international order and strategic autonomy”, the external affairs ministry said in a statement.

“The two sides held discussions on a variety of issues, including the current global security situation in the context of the conflict in Ukraine, regional security in the context of Afghanistan, counter-terrorism, cyber security, defence cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, besides other issues of mutual concern,” the official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), Arindam Bagchi, said.

The French embassy in Delhi struck an upbeat note. “The strategic partnership with India is based on exceptional mutual trust, shared democratic values and a joint vision for a multipolar, rules-based world order,” said the embassy in a statement.

French diplomatic advisor also called on PM Modi, during which the Indian leader expressed his thanks for French support to India’s G20 presidency. The French embassy said that Mr Bonne conveyed “full support” for India’s G-20 Presidency.

India is looking to deepen defence partnership with France in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine war. With Moscow becoming an international pariah, India is expected to diversify military supplies to other like-minded countries such as Russia.

Mr Bonne, also G-7/G-20 Sherpa to President Macron, also met External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar. “The discussions showed how close our views are on all major international issues and how the France-India strategic partnership is key to tackling the pressing challenges of 2023,” France’s Ambassador to India, Emmanuel Lenain, said after the meeting.

(Anushka Ghosh contributed inputs for this article)

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