NSA Ajit Doval holds strategic dialogue with France

India and France commit to closer cooperation in the Indo-Pacific

November 06, 2021 10:18 pm | Updated November 07, 2021 07:12 am IST - NEW DELHI:

NSA Ajit Doval with French Defence Minister Florence Parly during his visit to France.

NSA Ajit Doval with French Defence Minister Florence Parly during his visit to France.

India and France committed to closer cooperation in the Indo-Pacific through more intelligence sharing and expanding bilateral exercises in the maritime sphere, as National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval met with French President Emmanuel Macron’s diplomatic advisor Emmanuel Bonne in Paris for the annual strategic dialogue, the Indian Embassy announced on Saturday.

“[The two sides] agreed to strengthen bilateral defence and security partnership through enhanced intelligence and information sharing, operational cooperation, bolstering mutual capabilities, expanding bilateral exercises and pursuing new initiatives in maritime, space and cyber domains,” said the release, giving details of Mr. Doval’s meetings, including his discussions with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Defence Minister Florence Parly.

The NSA, who is hosting a regional conference on Afghanistan in Delhi on Wednesday, where security officials from Russia, Iran and Central Asian countries are expected to attend, also discussed cooperation with France on the developing situation there.

The two sides also discussed “the continuing challenge of terrorism; and, emerging threats in maritime, cyber and space domains”, the release added.

Mr. Doval travelled to France after accompanying Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who travelled to Rome for the G20 summit and Glasgow for the COP26 climate change summit.

While PM Modi and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar have met their counterparts during pull-aside meetings at both conferences as well as at the UN General Assembly in September, the NSA’s meeting was the first formal bilateral meeting between India and France since the blow-up over U.S. President Biden’s announcement of a new Indo-Pacific alliance with the U.K. and Australia. The alliance meant that Australia’s ongoing discussions with France for submarines was shelved, and the French President reacted sharply to the “betrayal” by allies, recalling diplomats and issuing demarche s over the issue. New Delhi, which was also informed about the new alliance just days before PM Modi’s visit to the U.S. for the Quad summit, distanced itself from the alliance, leading to speculation that India would open talks with France for the same submarines.

Readouts on both sides didn’t refer to the Aukus alliance, but Indo-Pacific strategy formed a large part of the discussion during the strategic dialogue and other meetings in Paris.

“The strategic partnership of France and India is essential to strengthen multilateralism and the defence of an Indo-Pacific space [that is] free, open and based on the excellent conversation worthy of a trusted strategic partnership,” emphasised Mr. Drian in a tweet.

Defence cooperation is a major pillar of India-France ties and France is one of India’s largest defence suppliers. France is also the first country to post a Liaison Officer at the Indian Navy’s Information Fusion Centre for the Indian Ocean Region, and the first country with which India has done joint patrols.

( With inputs from Dinakar Peri )

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