French Defence Minister Sebastien Lecornu on board India's first indigenously designed and built aircraft carrier INS Vikrant in Kochi in November (Image courtesy: Twitter/@SebLecornu)
French Defence Minister Sebastien Lecornu boarded India’s first indigenously designed and built aircraft carrier INS Vikrant in Kochi on Sunday to highlight the central role of naval cooperation between the two countries and France’s strategy for the Indo-Pacific.
As he toured the Indian Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, Lecornu praised India for joining the club of nations capable of building aircraft carriers.
“France and India are united in their desire to defend their maritime sovereignty and guarantee freedom of movement at sea in the Indo-Pacific zone,” tweeted the French Defence Minister.
As reported by IndiaNarrative.com, Lecornu’s visit to India comes at a time when the US aerospace giant Boeing and French major Dassault Aviation are locked in an intense competition to deck their fighter jets on INS Vikrant.
While France is offering Dassault Aviation’s Rafale maritime fighter for carrier operations on the largest ship ever built in the maritime history of India, the US is pitching Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet Block III to the Indian Navy.
On his first official visit to India, Lecornu will be in New Delhi today to hold wide-ranging talks with his counterpart Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, spanning all aspects of defence cooperation, including operational defence ties, counter-terrorism, maritime security in the Indo-Pacific, and industrial and technological partnerships in line with India’s ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ policy.
He is also scheduled to meet National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval for discussions on regional security issues and close India-France cooperation in combating terrorism.
Lecornu’s meeting with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar is expected to focus on global issues of common concern, “including the situation in Europe and in the Indo-Pacific”. He will also convey France’s full support for India’s Presidency of the G20, which is beginning on December 1.
“The Armed Forces Minister’s visit to India reaffirms France’s engagement in the Indo-Pacific and India’s centrality in the French strategy for the region. It comes in a year that has seen an acceleration of the French and Indian armed forces’ endeavours towards even greater interoperability through joint air, navy, and army exercises, such as IMEX 22 (March), Varuna (March-April), and the recently-concluded Garuda (October-November),” said the French Defence Ministry in a statement last week.