By India Strategic
“France, more than any other country, understands the necessity of the Indian content. And we are fully committed to the Make in India initiative, as well as to the further integration of Indian manufacturers into our global supply chains. Make in India has been a reality for French industry for several years, particularly for defence equipment such as submarines,” Parly said during a virtual session at the Ananta Centre think tank.
“And if I am here today, it is to say how precious is the friendship between France and India. It is based on historical and dense relations. This friendship, this trust that we have in each other, has developed and blossomed considerably in recent years, to such an extent that the distance between the Ganges and the Seine sometimes seems to be lessened.
“Our relationship is not only one of state to state; it is a friendship between two peoples. Two peoples who strongly cherish their diversity and share universal values: the French Enlightenment is one of the inventors of modern democracy while India has imposed it as a reference model in Asia. This is the strength of our partnership,” she added.
The relations between the two countries, she said, were predicated on five pillars.
“First, France and India are both viscerally committed to national sovereignty and independence: and I think that our industrial partnership is proof of that.
“Second, we both promote multilateralism and the defence of a rules-based international order. When the world and the region experience such upheavals, it is good to refer to rock-solid principles.
“Third, we are both very involved in building international security: India is one of the largest contributors to UN peacekeeping operations, and France contributes to international security in many parts of the world – yesterday in Afghanistan, today in the Sahel and in the Middle East.
“We also share the ability to mobilize international partners on major issues and global challenges, starting with the fight against climate change: I believe that armed forces have a lot to contribute to the fight against climate change: this is the meaning of an initiative we took at the Paris Peace Forum in November. I think we have a lot to learn from India, which is very determined to meeting the commitments of the Paris Agreement and is actively working on it.
“Finally, we want to preserve the Indo-Pacific as an open and inclusive area. It must be free from any coercion and based on compliance with international law and multilateralism,” Parly said.
To France, the Minister said, the Indo-Pacific in not an “artificial juxtaposition” of the Indian and Pacific oceans but “should be understood as a wide geographical continuum facing common challenges”.
“So, we have developed an exceptional partnership. And it is more necessary than ever to reinforce it. As you well know, we face both global and regional challenges,” she said.
The first challenge is terrorism.
“Terror has struck France and Europe repeatedly over the last few years and has not spared the Indo-Pacific, including India. This fight is not over and will continue for many years to come. The threat of attacks on our countries has not disappeared. I am thinking in particular of the situation in Afghanistan, which is a matter of concern for both France and India,” she said.
The second challenge is the respect of international maritime law.
“Everyone knows that some of the waterways are crucial for the economic security of a number of states in the region. They are actually essential for the economic security of many states outside the region, as well. No one should consider themselves as entitled to bypass international maritime law.
“We particularly insist on two principles of the rule-based international order: disputes should be resolved by legal means and negotiation, not by fait accompli. And freedom of navigation must be upheld. More generally, we need to work together to preserve access to global commons such as cyber, space, maritime and air domains. We can see that these are areas of strategic competition and we must ensure that they do not become the new Far West,” the Minister said.
These objectives have driven France to increase its presence in the Indo-Pacific.
“The French deployments were very large and unprecedented in 2021: France has deployed an attack submarine, the Emeraude, for eight months and up to over 15,000 kilometres from its mainland territory, across the Indian Ocean, the Pacific and the China Sea.
“This mission is part of a larger spectrum of operational activities such as the air mission Skyros (February 2021) or the deployment of the Jeanne d’Arc amphibious Task Group which both made stopovers in India. We also took part to multilateral exercises like La Pérouse in the Gulf of Bengal or ARC 2021 in the Japanese waters,” Parly said.
Noting that both exercises involved Japanese, Australian, American, Indian and French navies, she said: “We do not see France and India as the two poles of an exclusive partnership but rather as the core of a network of cooperation. We are already working together with the countries of the Indian Ocean, for example, to respond to environmental disasters and, if possible, to address them.”
The two ministers, during their Defence Dialogue, discussed a wide range of bilateral, regional, defence and defence industrial cooperation issues.
“The Ministers reviewed the existing military-to-military cooperation, which has increased in spite of pandemic challenges. They discussed ways to increase defence cooperation in all domains. India and France have recently concluded their annual bilateral Army Exercise, Shakti, with focus on counter-terrorist operations, in France in November 2021. Defence industrial cooperation was discussed with focus on future collaborations and co-production between the two countries,” the Defence Ministry said.
“The Ministers acknowledged their convergences on number of strategic and defence issues. They expressed commitment to work together to enhance cooperation in bilateral, regional and multilateral forums. France is the current chair of Indian Ocean Naval Symposium and shall take over the Presidency of European Union from January 01, 2022. The two Ministers decided to work closely on a number of issues during the French Presidency,” the Ministry added.
This article was published by India Strategic in December 2021.
Featured Photo: French Minister for the Armed Forces Ms Florence Parly inspecting the Tri-Service Guard of Honour in New Delhi on December 17.