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French Defence Minister to board INS Vikrant during India visit

A file image of PM Narendra Modi with the French President Emmanuel Macron (Image courtesy: PIB)

Spotlighting the important role that the Indo-French strategic partnership can play in the security and stability of the Indo-Pacific region, French Defence Minister Sebastien Lecornu will board India’s first indigenously designed and built aircraft carrier INS Vikrant on Sunday.

Lecornu will pay his first official visit to India on November 27-28 to hold the Indo-French Annual Defence Dialogue and to strengthen Indo-French strategic ties.

In Kochi on November 27, he will visit INS Vikrant and highlight the importance of Indo-French naval cooperation for security and stability in the Indo-Pacific.

According to the French Defence Ministry, as part of the Annual Defence Dialogue, Lecornu will then 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.

During his visit, Lecornu will meet External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar to discuss global issues of common concern, “including the situation in Europe and in the Indo-Pacific”, and will 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.

Indian Army
COAS General Manoj Pande with General Stephane Mille, Chief of Staff of the French Air and Space Force in New Delhi, earlier this month (Image courtesy: ADGPI)

As reported by IndiaNarrative.com, the last few weeks have witnessed some intense defence cooperation between India and France reflecting India’s position as a major strategic partner for France in the Indo-Pacific region.

General Stephane Mille, Chief of Staff of the French Air and Space Force (AAE), was in New Delhi earlier this month as Indian and French pilots, flying Rafale and Tejas fighter jets, were involved in the ‘Garuda 22’ bilateral exercise in Jodhpur.

During his visit to Delhi, Mille met not only General Pande and Chief of Air Staff (CAS) Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari but also the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Anil Chauhan and the top Indian Navy leadership.

Following Mille’s visit, and while Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron held discussions on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Bali, Indian Army Chief General Manoj Pande landed in Paris on a four-day visit to further strengthen the “bonds of trust”.

Adding more depth and strength to the strategic partnership between the two countries, French Navy’s Head of International Relations Rear Admiral Jean-Mathieu Rey’s visited New Delhi to participate in the Indo-Pacific Regional Dialogue (IPRD) which was organised by the National Maritime Foundation (NMF) and concluded on Friday.

French Navy
Rear Admiral Jean-Mathieu Rey, Head, International Relations (ALRI), French Navy was briefed on maritime trends in Indian Ocean Region and collaboration during his visit to Information Fusion Center – Indian Ocean Region (Image courtesy: IFCIOR)

As he wrapped up his India visit, the Rear Admiral called on the navies of Indian Ocean Rim countries to increase their cooperation under multilateral bodies – such as the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) chaired by France this year, and the India-led Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI) – to strengthen their interoperability for the common good.

“Given the manifold challenges in a region as vast as the Indo-Pacific, France is keen to intensify dialogue with all like-minded partners and further operationalize our joint initiatives. This is also our agenda as the current chair of IONS. The navies of the Indian Ocean countries have a duty to their fellow citizens to act for their security and prosperity,” he said in his speech at IPRD 2022 on Wednesday.

Naval cooperation plays a key role in the two countries’ joint vision for a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific with the two Navies having conducted joint patrols in the Indian Ocean based off of France’s Reunion Island, this year.

The French Rear Admiral highlighted France’s direct stakes in the Indo-Pacific through its territories, citizens and military presence in the region, and outlined the French strategy for promoting stability, security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific along with key partners such as India.

The French Navy official mentioned the success of the IMEX 22 naval exercise jointly organised by France and India in March off the coast of Goa, which brought together the Navies of several IONS countries on the theme of Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief.

“These efforts under IONS are also fully in line with the goal of operationalizing the IPOI programme led by the Indian Navy. On a bilateral level, Indo-French naval cooperation is increasingly ambitious in scope. We are now capable of conducting joint patrols in the Indian Ocean. We see the Indian Navy as a key net security provider in the region,” said Rear Admiral Rey.

During his several bilateral engagements on naval cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, Rey highlighted the important role that the Indo-French strategic partnership plays in the security and stability of the Indo-Pacific region.

He also visited the Information Fusion Center – Indian Ocean Region (IOR), where France was the first foreign partner to post a liaison officer. He welcomed the continuous increase in maritime information sharing between France and India, which serves our two nations’ maritime domain awareness and capacity to ensure maritime security in the region.

Rear Admiral Rey met Vice Admiral Rajesh Pendharkar (DGNO), Rear Admiral Nibhay Bapna (CNS/FCI), as well as Director General VS Pathania (DG ICG) for discussions on further deepening Indo-French naval cooperation.

Also Read: Flying Rafales, Tejas and Su-30, Indian and French pilots step up war games in Rajasthan