April is going to be a busy month for the French Navy in the Indian Ocean. It is deploying its Carrier Battle Group to the region and participating in two major exercises – La Perouse a French Naval war game which will have the Quad countries and the other Ex Varuna a trilateral exercise with India and the UAE in the western Indian Ocean.
This, according to an Indian Navy veteran “underlines the importance France accords to the entire Indo-Pacific where its economic and strategic interests including a large EEZ interests extend from the Horn of Africa to beyond Polynesia.”
“France has always maintained a significant naval presence in the Indian Ocean headed by a 2-star Admiral called Alindien and was also the first country to appoint an observer at the IOR-IFC (Indian Ocean Region Information Fusion Centre) set up by India on the outskirts of the national capital,” Commodore Anil Jai Singh, Vice President of the Indian Maritime Foundation, tells Financial Express Online.
Indo-France Military Relations
“The strategic relationship between France and India, which has been on an upward trajectory ever since France was supportive of India’s nuclear tests in 1998 when most of the western world’s first reaction was to impose sanctions, has expanded considerably in the last two decades. The fact that India is a large defence market also helps. Encouraging India to buy French weapons and equipment is part of the French Government’s thrust in India and the success can be seen in the sale of the Project 75 submarines and the Rafale fighter aircraft amongst others through a G2G arrangement,” Commodore Anil Jai Singh, says.
The former Indian Navy submariner says, “France is also pitching very strongly for the P75(I) submarine programme and is projecting itself as an integral part of India’s ‘Atmnirbharta’ drive though any meaningful transfer of technology showing this resolve is yet to be seen. France has also offered to share its civilian nuclear technology and has offered nuclear reactors to India.”
“This deepening bilateral relationship also dovetails seamlessly into the larger French engagement with the region and strengthens the ‘arc of maritime democracies’ in their efforts to ensure a Free and Open Indo-Pacific and maintain a rules-based international order in the region particularly in the maritime domain,” he says.