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Discussing joint patrols with India in Indian Ocean: French Navy chief

Vessels from the U.S. Navy, Indian Navy, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Philippine Navy sail in formation at sea, in this recent taken handout photo released by Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force on May 9, 2019.

Vessels from the U.S. Navy, Indian Navy, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Philippine Navy sail in formation at sea, in this recent taken handout photo released by Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force on May 9, 2019.   | Photo Credit: Reuters

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Large Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) needs a close watch, he says

In a first, India and France are in discussions for joint patrols in the Indian Ocean, said visiting French Navy Chief Admiral Christophe Prazuck on Monday. So far India has undertaken Coordinated Patrols (CORPAT) only with its maritime neighbours.

“I am very much looking forward to organising joint patrols with the Indian Navy in this area in 2020,” Adm .Prazuck said adding that the two sides are still working on the very precise objectives. “The region could be North Western Indian Ocean or Southern Indian Ocean around the islands that are part of France,” he said also referring to them as “dual operations.” He was speaking on the French strategic vision on the Indo-Pacific at the Observer Research Foundation.

Elaborating on the joint patrols, Adm Prazuck said when there is a very large Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) one has to patrol there and know what’s going on, but the spaces are huge. The idea is “if you don’t control then it could be pillaged, when it would be pillaged it could be contested”. Observing that if you ally to control what’s happening in this area you are more efficient, he said, “This is why we will work with the Indian Navy.”

‘Neighbourhood First’ policy

Currently, under the ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy and broader maritime cooperation, Indian Navy undertakes Joint EEZ surveillance with the Maldives, Seychelles and Mauritius and CORPATs with Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand and Indonesia.

In the past, several senior U.S. military officers had raised the prospect of joint patrols with the Navy which was declined by India. Former Navy Chief Adm Sunil Lanba had said in 2018 while India is looking at cooperative frameworks to deal with common threats, he said efforts like coordinated patrols and joint patrols will be done only with maritime neighbours.

On China’s increasing military presence in the larger Indian Ocean Region and beyond, Adm. Prazuck said the landscape has changed and the Chinese Navy “is not hiding anything about their global ambitions”. Saying that before 2008 and before the pirate crisis in Somalia there were no Chinese ships in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO), he said, “Very often piracy is a very good excuse for countries to go out of their waters. It has been true for France, Royal Navy and even for the US Navy when they were fighting pirates in Libya.”

Adm. Prazuck said China had sent ships in 2008 and they are still here though there is no more piracy, still sending Nuclear Attack submarines (SSN) in the WIO “though it’s not the most effective tool to fight against pirates”.

“If you are interested in the Sea Lanes of Communication (SLOCs), if you want to secure your trade naturally you would go in these places,” he said on the Chinese interest for military bases and dual use facilities in the region.

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Printable version | Dec 8, 2019 4:21:16 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/discussing-joint-patrols-with-india-in-indian-ocean-french-navy-chief/article30013561.ece

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