Amid “growing assertiveness of China” in the Indo-Pacific, France on Thursday said it is determined to uphold multilateralism, respect of international law, sovereignty of countries and human rights with “eyes wide open”.

Speaking at an event organised by the Observer Research Foundation, Catherine Colonna, France’s Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, said tensions are on the rise in the Indo-Pacific and increased polarisation seriously threatens stability in the region.

“The growing assertiveness of China, the increasing strategic competition between China and the United States have produced major transformations and disruptions, which pose serious challenges throughout the region,” she said.

The minister said when it comes to China, its cooperation is needed, particularly on tackling global issues.

“Simultaneously, we also have to stand firmly on our interests and our values. We are determined to uphold multilateralism, the respect of international law, of countries sovereignty and of human rights.

“We will continue to do it, along with our key partners in Europe and in the Indo-Pacific, without being naïve, and believe me, we are not naïve. Our eyes are wide open,” she added.

The Indo-Pacific has seen a growing assertiveness by China, which also has a festering border dispute with India.

Noting that there are serious security challenges in the Indo-Pacific, the French foreign minister said an exclusive focus on military competition would only increase tensions and it is equally essential to address economic, development and connectivity issues.

India and France share robust ties in the areas of defence, nuclear energy and space.

India and France have not only intensified their joint exercises, but the two sides are undertaking sea patrols together such as the one organised from the Reunion Island between an Indian Air Force reconnaissance aircraft and one of French Navy’s frigates, Colonna said.

The minister said India and France are together implementing the ‘Indo-Pacific Natural Parks Partnership’.

In the coming weeks, Paris will send an expert to the National Institute of Ocean Technology, Chennai, an institute functioning under the Union Ministry of Earth Sciences, and India will be the guest of honour at the ‘Sea Tech Week’ in France in the next ten days.

Colonna also signalled thawing of ties between France and Australia after Paris reacted angrily to the signing of trilateral security pact Aukus last year.

The relationship with Australia, which was “badly damaged by the way Aukus was handled” is now off to a start, and it allows to reset trilateral exchanges with India, France and Australia, she said.

Colonna said the foreign ministers of India, France and Australia will meet in New York next week.

Aukus is a security alliance of Australia, the US and the UK, which will help Australia build nuclear-powered submarines for the first time using technology provided by America.

The alliance riled France, which had a submarine deal with Australia.