In a major upgrade to their multi-faceted strategic partnership, India and France have decided to strengthen cooperation to keep the critical sea routes in the Indo-Pacific “free, open, and inclusive”.The wide-ranging talks between Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla and his French interlocutors in Paris imparted a fresh momentum to long-standing plans for Indo-Pacific cooperation between India and France. France was the first leg of his week-long three-nation tour of Europe, including Germany and the UK. During his meeting with Alice Guitton, France’s Director-General of International Relations and Strategy (DGRIS), on October 30, 2020, they discussed the Indo-Pacific region, maritime security, defense partnership, and regional security cooperation.
Mr Shringla held talks with senior French officials on various cooperation mechanisms between the government departments, including foreign and defense ministries, military, and civilian entities.“India and France are strong partners in the Indo-Pacific. We are united in our vision of the importance of maintaining a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific. We remain committed to upholding the rules-based international order, underpinned by the rule of law, transparency, freedom of navigation in the international seas, respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty, and peaceful resolution of dispute,” he said at Institut Français des Relations Internationales (IFRI), Paris on ‘India’s Foreign Policy in the Post-Covid World.
Mr Shringla underscored that India’s Indo-Pacific policy is aimed at security and the economic interests of all countries having legitimate and vital interests in the region.“Our Indo-Pacific concept has gained increasingly wider acceptance. In this context, the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative that we tabled at the East Asia Summit last year holds considerable promise.”
“France is the first country to have launched an independent Indo-Pacific policy and sees India as a key partner in advancing its vision of the Indo-Pacific,” said Manish Chand, Editor-in-Chief of India and the World magazine and India Writes Network. “This is the first trip by Foreign Secretary Shringla to a European country outside the country’s immediate neighbourhood. The trip has reaffirmed France’s status as India’s Friend for All Seasons,” he said.Tensions in the Indo-Pacific have risen significantly after the diplomatic spat broke out between China and the US over the pandemic early this year. In Indo-Pacific and other regions, India and France are voices of wisdom and stability and actors for the greater common good, said senior officials. In his interactions with French officials, Mr Shringla conveyed that while multilateralism needs to be reformed and upgraded, its hard-won gains must be nourished.
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