The stage is set for the 4th India-France annual Defence Dialogue next week where the focus of discussions will be on deepening bilateral defence relations between the two countries and the Indo-Pacific Region.
Defence minister Rajnath Singh will co-chair the Dialogue along with the Minister of Armed Forces of the French Republic Sebastien Lecornu on his three day visit to India starting today (Nov 26, 2022). This is 35 years old Sebastien Lecornu’s first visit to India since he became a Minister of Armed Forces earlier in May this year.
Besides visiting the country’s first indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant on Sunday (November 27, 2022), he will be visiting the Headquarters of Southern Naval Command too. During his visit to Kochi, the French minister will highlight the importance of Indo-French Naval Cooperation for the stability and security of the Indo-Pacific.
According to an official statement issued by the Ministry of Defence, the visiting Minister of Armed Forces of France of Sebastien Lecornu will also have a meeting with External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar and the National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval in New Delhi.
The visit of the French minister comes at a time when the European nation has offered Rafale (M) fighter jets for the navy as well as more Rafale for the Indian Air Force (IAF) with higher indigenous content. And his visit also reaffirms his country’s engagement in the Indo-Pacific Region and also India’s centrality in the French strategy for the region. This year has witnessed a greater acceleration of endeavours of the armed forces of both countries towards greater interoperability, through air, army and navy exercises – IMEX 22; VARUNA; and the recently concluded GARUDA.
Agenda of the Dialogue
The focus of discussions with his Indian counterpart Rajnath Singh and later external affairs minister Jaishankar will be on deeper cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region, strengthening of strategic partnership as well as working together on various defence projects jointly. The two sides will discuss maritime security, industrial and technological partnership which is in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s `Atmanirbhar Bharat’ initiative, counter-terrorism, among other issues of mutual interest.
The two countries are working together on building submarines and as has been reported earlier there are talks between companies from both sides to work together on building jet engines for fighter aircraft.
According to an official note from the Embassy of France in New Delhi, during the meeting with Jaishankar and the visiting minister the talks will on the situation in Europe, and in the Indo-Pacific and will also convey his country’s full support for India’s G20 presidency which officially starts from December 1, 2022.
India-France & Indo-Pacific
A defence strategy report which has been published by the French government earlier this month ` The 2022 France’s National Strategic Review’ report is focused on being a “balancing power” in the Indo-Pacific and to further strengthen ties with India, its long time ally. The report has stated that France is keen on building its partnerships with countries in the Indo-Pacific region including India, Indonesia, Australia, Singapore and Japan.