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From seabed to space, cyber to oceans – France and India now target grand security partnership

India sees France as a 'trusted collaborator' in countering security challenges (Image courtesy: PIB)

Listing defence and security as one of the two areas of national interest for India where it looks at France as a key partner, New Delhi is exploring "ambitious ideas" for collaborative defence ventures in India which will support both countries' common interests in the Indo-Pacific region as well.

The second area, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said in his address on 'How India sees France' at the Institut Francais des Relations Internationales (French Institute of International Relations or  IFRI) in Paris on Tuesday, is the transformation of its industrial sector.

Jaishankar said that in this era of "growing uncertainty", polities are searching for "reliable and resilient partners" and those with shared values and common vision fit the bill more perfectly, which is certainly the case with France and India.

Right from the first acquisition of a French fighter aircraft in the early 1950s till the arrival of the omnirole Rafale fighter jets recently, India has considered France as a critical partner for its national security.

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The Dassault Ouragan fighter, or Toofanis as they were to be known in the Indian Air Force, reached Delhi's Palam airport from France on 24 October 1953 (Ouragan fighter image courtesy: Dassault Aviation/French Air Force)

As reported by IndiaNarrative.com on Monday, the strategic partnership between the two countries is expected to get further strengthened as both work together to bring niche aircraft engine technology to India and also a possible collaboration on nuclear-powered submarines.

Also Read: Will India and France work together on aero-engines and nuclear subs after Jaishankar's visit?

This includes design and development of high thrust engines of 110 kN power and above in India using the state-of-the-art technology of French global leaders in the defence industry.

Jaishankar said that India sees France as a "trusted collaborator" in countering security challenges from seabed to space, from cyber to oceans. 

"France is also among the foremost countries as India seeks to build industrial self-reliance in the defence sector, with a sense of urgency and priority. In this, we draw inspiration from the national self-sufficiency France has itself built," the minister said.  

As all nations are "reappraising priorities, strategies, relationships and even strategic geography", Jaishankar said that India has strong reason to see France as a critical partner for its national security.

He noted that France, having a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council, has also been an "important influence" in the development of India's strategic thinking, especially its nuclear force posture.

From showing an understanding of India's strategic compulsions after the 1998 nuclear tests to playing a vital role in India getting an exemption from the Nuclear Suppliers Group in 2008, the French, he said, have always stood in support of Indians.  

"So it was no surprise that Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee made Paris his first bilateral stop after the nuclear tests. Along with President Chirac, he launched the Strategic Partnership between our two countries that still serves us well today," Jaishankar mentioned.

Calling France a major power with a global outlook and an independent mindset – one that is not only central to multipolarity and rebalancing but also extremely responsive to India's concerns and priorities – the External Affairs Minister also spoke on collaboration in the industrial sector.

He mentioned that like France, India, too, saw the erosion of its industrial base, and like France, India remains determined to restore it, especially with emphasis on the industries of the future.

"The Indian economy is experiencing a strong rebound, with a growth of 9.2%. Rapid expansion of infrastructure is being accompanied by sustained reforms in the business environment and attractive production linked incentives in thirteen sectors. The political comfort and trust in our relationship adds to the attractiveness of India for French businesses," Jaishankar explained.

As both countries jointly address contemporary and emerging challenges, the minister said that the partnership between India and France is "the strongest now" since the country's independence 75 years ago.

India emphasised that, looking ahead, the shared interests and common beliefs are creating an ambitious agenda for expanding partnership between the two countries, especially in the Indo-Pacific region where the "centre of gravity of global opportunities and challenges" increasingly lies.

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External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar with his French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian, French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs in Paris (Image courtesy: Twitter/@francediplo)

Jaishankar reiterated that developments in the Indo-Pacific and ensuing regional order will have a direct impact across the world, including in Europe.

India, he said, is at the strategic centre of this region while France – a resident power – represents its two bookends with a vast EEZ as both seek a free, open and inclusive region to safeguard their interests, including the security of the sea lanes, freedom of navigation and the protection of the marine commons.

"Our cooperation also intends to create better options to countries in the region and enable them to make sovereign and free choices. They should neither be subjected to domination nor caught in a binary power rivalry," said Jaishankar in a veiled reference to China's growing aggression in the region.

Also Read: Issues in the Indo-Pacific extend to Europe, Jaishankar tells European Union forum