France and India want to “act together” in the Indo-Pacific.

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Amid the submarine crisis and the announcement of a new strategic alliance between Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, French President Emmanuel Macron and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday reiterated their desire to “jointly act openly and promote inclusive Indo- Pacific Rim”.

French President Emmanuel Macron and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke by phone on Tuesday, September 21, reaffirming their desire to work together “in an open and inclusive Indo-Pacific,” the Élysée announced.

The French head of state “recalls France’s obligation to contribute to the strengthening of India’s strategic autonomy, including its industrial and technological base”, specified the French Presidency.

This interview comes amid Paris fury after the September 15 announcement of a new strategic alliance between Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom (Aukus) that torpedoed a mega-deal of French submarines in Canberra.

The statement from the Elysée does not allude to this. But he underscores the two countries’ joint approach with “ambitions to promote regional stability and the rule of law while ruling out any form of hegemony” in the Indo-Pacific, the epicenter of tensions between China and the United States.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian was also due to meet his Indian counterpart Subrahmanyam Jaishankar on Tuesday in New York on the fringes of the UN General Assembly.

In a tweet, Narendra Modi stressed having discussed “closer cooperation between India and France in the Indo-Pacific” with Emmanuel Macron, and acknowledged the “importance” of the bilateral strategic partnership.

India on both counts

This conversation allows Paris to acquire a key ally in the region, especially against China, after a multitude of favorable signals: sale of Rafale to India, joint military operations in the Indian Ocean, opening of French Indian Navy bases in Djibouti, the Emirates, Réunion …

India wants to work with the region’s democracies, “this is the only way to build a balance of power and security on the scale of the region,” explains Brahma Chellaney, professor of strategic studies at the Center for Policy Research (CPR), a private think tank based in India New Delhi.

“Exclusive security agreements (like Aukus, editor’s note) speak against this vision,” he adds, noting that France, like any other democracy, is an “important” ally for New Delhi.

But India needs to play delicately between complex balances.

For Australia is also an ally of New Delhi, which refuses to be drawn into a strategically unnatural and counterproductive dispute. In addition, India is an important industrial partner of France in terms of armaments and intends to make further progress in this area with Washington, London and Canberra.

“Modi’s pragmatism could play a role in helping Macron find the right moment to start reducing the affront,” as seen in Paris, believes Rory Medcalf, director of the National Security College at the university ofAustralia.

India, he explains in essence, must have it both ways. She appreciates France’s desire for autonomy. But she admits Canberra needs to build a strong military deterrent against the Chinese. And holds in its little papers a fundamental alliance with the United States of Joe Biden.

The American President is also bringing together the Prime Ministers of Australia, India and Japan in Washington on September 24 to revive a diplomatic format, the “quad”, that has been languishing for several years. A platform Modi could use to “support the role of the French in the region, while de facto acknowledging the Aukus as an interesting alliance,” Rory Medcalf reckons.

Implicitly with India’s desire to remain at the center of a crucial game for its security.

“That Delhi is today at the center of a difficult conversation between the United States, Britain, France, Europe and Australia underscores the growing depth and diversity of ties between India and the various parts of the West,” summarizes a column in the Indian Express newspaper C. Raja Mohan, Director of the Institute of East Asian Studies at the University of Singapore.

With AFP

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