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India, UAE, France trilateral focuses on defence, energy, environment

Indian foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra with his French and UAE counterparts (Photo: MEA/Twitter)

Indian Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra met his counterparts from France and UAE in Paris earlier this week, taking forward the India-France-UAE trilateral dialogue amidst fast-changing global developments.

A sign of India’s fleet-footed diplomacy in the strategic Gulf region, the trilateral was launched as recently as September 2022 by the foreign ministers of the three countries when they met on 19 September 2022 on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

The trialogue took place two days after the foreign ministers of the three nations spoke over phone last week to finalise an action plan to cooperate in strategic areas like defence, energy, environment and boost people-to-people exchanges.

In a tweet, the Ministry of External Affairs said: “Foreign Secretary @AmbVMKwatra participated in a meeting of focal points of the India-France-UAE trilateral dialogue and discussed potential cooperation in the fields of defence, energy and environment, innovation and people-to-people exchanges”.

Defence and security bind the three countries as they seek to collaborate and enhance training between the military personnel of the three nations. They also plan to jointly produce military hardware. The trio is also sometimes also referred to as the ‘Rafale group’ as France has sold its fighter jets to both India and the UAE. Besides, France has a military base in Abu Dhabi, its first-ever outside Africa, to keep an eye on shipping lanes and curb piracy particularly around the Horn of Africa region.

Their initiatives on environment, climate change and defence seek to increase joint influence in the Indo-Pacific region. A joint statement said that the three countries will work to align their economic, technological and social objectives as per the Paris Agreement.

On energy, the three nations plan cooperation in solar and nuclear where India and France have together initiated the International Solar Alliance (ISA) to promote solar as a clean and sustainable energy. India and France are partners in the Indo-Pacific Parks Partnership where they aim to reinforce protected areas and natural parks.

The three nations also seek to cooperate in combating climate change and protect biodiversity with the UAE taking the initiative on the Mangroves Alliance to which India made commitments during the Cairo conference on climate change in November last year. They also plan to focus on single-use plastic pollution, desertification and food security by promoting and taking initiatives related to the International Year of Millets-2023.

The India-France-UAE trilateral also fits in with India’s growing relations in the Gulf. The most notable initiative being the I2U2 group – India, Israel, the UAE and the US, also known as the West Asia Quad. The West Asia Quad seeks to not only deepen economic partnership among the four nations but also further partnership in water, transportation, clean energy and food security.

For India, UAE is strategic as the country hosts the largest percentage of the huge Indian diaspora residing in the Gulf. Moreover, the country receives a substantial part of its remittances from the Gulf countries including the UAE.

The trilateral, for India, fits in with its ‘minilateral’ strategy in which the country is working with a number of smaller groups to achieve diplomatic and strategic objectives in a multi-polar world where the UN is largely being seen as outdated with too many conflicts and crises plaguing the world.

Also read: India-France military cooperation deepens with INS Vagir submarine

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