India and France are holding their annual strategic dialogue in New Delhi on Thursday. National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval is leading the Indian side while French President Emmanuel Macron’s diplomatic advisor Emmanuel Bonne is heading the visiting delegation. On his last visit to India in 2019, Bonne had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The external affairs ministry in its release on Wednesday said, “The two sides will hold discussions on wide-ranging bilateral and global issues. Emmanuel Bonne will also call on other Indian dignitaries. The last edition of the Strategic Dialogue was held in February 2020 in Paris.”
Setting the tone for the India-France strategic dialogue, French ambassador to India Emmanuel Lenain on New Year’s Day said France was eager to work with India to uphold international law, fight terror and defend multilateralism while welcoming India’s stint at the UN Security Council.
“The purpose is to make India our first strategic partner in the region and I want you to make France your first strategic partner in Europe and in the West world.
We share the same vision of the world,” French President Emmanuel Macron wrote on Twitter in 2018 while highling India-France strategic ties.
INDIA-FRANCE STRATEGIC DIALOGUE: 10 POINTS
- The India-France strategic dialogue is held annually with the two countries alternating as hosts. The last India-France strategic dialogue was held in Paris in February 2020 just before the Covid-19 pandemic forced the world into a lockdown.
- The key focus areas of the talks this year are Covid-19 vaccines, cooperation within the Indo-Pacific area, nuclear, space, maritime safety, environment, digital economy, and defense sectors.
- France has an emphatic presence in the Indian Ocean region. Its overseas territories of Reunion Island and Mayotte island make it a stakeholder in the region, which is fast developing into a theatre of geostrategic power-play. The overseas territories of France give it an area of 28 lakh sq km in the Indian Ocean as an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) under the UNCLOS treaty of 1982.
- France has emerged as a key partner of India in the Indian Ocean in recent years. Recently, India signed a logistics sharing agreement with France. This enables India and France to use each other’s military facilities. This is significant in the view of China’s growing interested and capability in the Indian Ocean under Xi Jinping.
- China has increased its stake in the Indian Ocean region with its presence in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Maldives, and Djibouti. India’s agreement with France could be a deterrent to the growing ambitions of China as the French Navy has permanent bases in Djibouti and Abu Dhabi besides in territories of Reunion Island and Mayotte in the Indian Ocean.
- India and France have robust economic and strategic ties for several decades. The bilateral bonding has strengthened in recent years with India deepening it's military and defense ties with France. India has signed various agreements for the purchase of French defence platforms including fighter jets, helicopters, and submarines.
- Demonstration of solidarity has been an important aspect of growing closeness between India and France. India promptly condemned the Paris knife attack over freedom of expression row in October 2020.