New Delhi, Nov 15 (IANS) After officials of India, the US, Japan and Australia held first-ever quadrilateral meeting in Manila on the security architecture and development of the Indo-Pacific region, French Ambassador to India Alexandre Ziegler said on Wednesday that his country is forging a security partnership with India over this region.
“We have got key cooperation with India on things such as counter-terrorism, defence industry, nuclear energy,” Ziegler said while briefing the media here ahead of the visit of French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian starting on Thursday.
“We have a growing cooperation on the Indian Ocean where India occupies a very central position and France as well, and we are in the process of forging a strong defence and security partnership on the Indo-Pacific and Indian Ocean,” he said.
Ziegler’s comments come after Sunday’e India-US-Japan-Australia meeting in the Philippines capital where the officials agreed that “a free, open, prosperous and inclusive” Indo-Pacific served long-term global interests, giving impetus to an emerging quad of democracies amid China’s rising military and economic power.
It was the first dialogue of the quadrilateral formation of the democracies in which anti-terrorism cooperation was also discussed.
Japanese Foreign Minister Tara Kono said in October that Tokyo was for a top-level quadrilateral dialogue that would also include Australia.
Kono said the idea was for the leaders of the four countries to promote free trade and defence cooperation across a stretch of ocean from the South China Sea, the Indian Ocean and all the way to Africa.
Stating that France and India also shared a strong space cooperation as well, Ziegler said all these issues would be addressed when Le Drian would hold a meeting with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Friday.
Le Drian’s visit is aimed at laying the groundwork for the visit of French President Emmanuel Macron in early 2018 for launching the India-initiated International Solar Alliance (ISA).
Though the French President was originally scheduled to visit India in December this year for the launch ceremony, it has now been rescheduled and now the visit will take place in early 2018, dates for which are being worked out.
According to French diplomatic sources, France’s partnership with India on the Indo-Pacific island will primarily focus on the Indian Ocean part where the European nation has overseas territories in the form of around 10 islands. While Reunion Island with a population of one million is the largest one, many of the other islands are uninhabited.
Apart from the Indo-Pacific cooperation, other issues likely to come up for discussion are France’s participation in India’s flagship projects and the Jaitapur nuclear power plant.
The sources said the decision to increase the number of reactors to six in the Jaitapur plant served as a gamechanger and both Indian and French governments are extending support to what is going to be the world’s largest nuclear power plant.
France is also participating in the Make in India campaign after New Delhi decided to acquire the Rafale fighter jets because of their “outstanding performance and competitive pricing”.
In the Smart Cities programme, France will be participating in the development of the cities of Chandigarh, Nagpur and Pondicherry.
According to the sources, talks are being held with Indian Railways for a semi high-speed railway pilot project between Delhi and Chandigarh. Projects of semi high-speed trains that reach speeds of up to 200 kmph can be constructed at five times less the cost than high speed trains that can move at 300 kmph
Apart from Sushma Swaraj, Foreign Minister Le Drian will also meet Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Human Reources Minister Prakash Javadekar.
The visiting dignitary will inaugurate Bonjour India, the France festival in India in Jaipur on Saturday.
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