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22.09.2021 Europe

Macron and Modi vow to join forces in Indo-Pacific amid submarine row

By RFI
REUTERS/Charles Platiau
LISTEN SEP 22, 2021
REUTERS/Charles Platiau

France and India – both nuclear powers – have said they've agreed to "act jointly" in the Indo-Pacific region amid a deepening dispute over a ditched submarine contract.

French President Emmanuel Macron's telephone talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi were timed conspicuously as French anger appears undiminished after Australia pulled out of the submarine deal in favour of a pact with the United States and Britain.

US officials have said US President Joe Biden is seeking a phone call with Macron in the coming days to ease tensions.

However this has yet to materialise, with Macron taking the unprecedented step of recalling France's ambassadors from Canberra and Washington.

Macron assured Modi of France's continued "commitment to the strengthening of India's strategic autonomy", including its industry and technology base, as part of a "close relationship based on trust and mutual respect".

The statement from Macron's office said France and India's shared approach would be aimed at promoting "regional stability and the rule of law."

The three-way strategic alliance between Australian, the UK and the US, known as  AUKUS, is widely seen as seeking to counter the rising power of China in the area.

Tightening ties with India

Paris has in recent years sought to tighten ties with India. In 2016 the two sides signed a multibillion dollar deal for French to provide 36 Rafale fighter jets to New Delhi.

While the agreement is under investigation in France for kickback allegations, it is viewed as a commercial and diplomatic success for Paris.

Indian media have speculated that Australia's cancellation of the submarine deal could spark French-Indian talks about a submarine agreement of their own, possibly involving a transfer of technology.

During a September 2020 visit to New Delhi, French Defence Minister Florence Parly discussed the idea that the Rafale deal could lead to sales of other weaponry, including submarines, a French Defence Ministry source said.

"The Indian air force is completely satisfied with these planes, and that means were are well-placed for the future," the unnamed source said.

Arms sales

Possible future arms sales discussed in New Delhi included helicopters, ammunition and fighter jet turbines.

The French and Indian leaders will "maintain regular exchanges" before the G20 summit on 30 and 31 October in Rome and the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow in early November, the Elysée said.

Macron, who has not yet spoken publicly on the crisis, was due to meet US President Joe Biden, who spoke at the United Nations headquarters in New York on Tuesday.

But the French President did not attend the UN General Assembly, instead choosing to send the Foreign Minister Jean Yves Le Drian to speak on behalf of the country in a pre-recorded video message.

(With AFP)

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