India and France have taken concrete steps to firm up their strategic partnership in the western Indian Ocean, as part of their respective Indo-Pacific strategies, within two months of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s trip to Paris.
Leaders of India, France, and Vanilla Islands – consisting of Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius and Seychelles in the western Indian Ocean – are currently meeting for the first time in Reunion Islands (French territory) for exploring economic and development partnership. India is being represented by the minister of state for external affairs V Muraleedharan at the meet.
India, in partnership with France, is keen to focus on port development, blue economy, trade, connectivity, tourism, skill development, hospitality and healthcare in this resource-rich region, said people aware of the matter. India is also eyeing gas deposits in the Mozambique Channel near Vanilla Islands, they said.
While India has longstanding defence partnerships with Mauritius and Seychelles, its defence ties with Comoros and Madagascar are growing as part of India’s Indo-Pacific outreach to ensure peace and stability. Indo-French defence partnership extends to the western part of the Indian Ocean region.
Following his meetings on Wednesday, Muraleedharan tweeted, “Spoke about India’s role in enhancing trade and regional integration in the Indo-Pacific at the plenary chaired by HE @BrunoLeMaire French Minister of Finance and Economy this evening. India is a force of good, peace, and engine of growth and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific. India’s mantra for the region ‘SAGAR’ stands for ‘security and growth for all’. India could forge a strong economic partnership in the Indo-Pacific, especially around the Reunion.”
The joint statement issued after Modi’s meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron had indicated enhancement in the Indo-French partnership in the western Indian Ocean.
“Based on a shared commitment to maintaining the freedom of navigation, particularly in the Indo-Pacific zone, maritime security cooperation between France and India is a domain of excellence in their strategic partnership,” said the joint statement.
“In this regard, France and India welcomed the swift implementation of the conclusions of the joint strategic vision of India-France cooperation in the Indian Ocean region, adopted during the state visit to India of President Macron in March 2018,” it said.
Source: Economic Times