France’s visiting presidential adviser Emmanuel Bonne and India’s National Security Adviser, Ajit Doval, have exchanged notes on a long list of topics, including ways to end the war between Russia and Ukraine, India-China border standoff and transfer of state-of-the-art military technology under the ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ route.
Bonne also called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who invited French President Emmanuel Macron to visit India. ‘Had a fruitful meeting with Emmanuel Bonne, Diplomatic Advisor to President Macron, covering a wide range of issues from Defence and security to culture. Glad that our strategic partnership is further deepening. Conveyed invitation to my friend @EmmanuelMacron to visit India,’ PM Modi tweeted.
Ahead of the strategic dialogue, the Hindustan Times reported that manufacture of aero-engines, using the assembly line to manufacture Kalvari class submarines at the Mazagon Docks for retrofitting existing subs so that they have longer endurance was part of the agenda of the dialogue.
The Kalvari class submarine is an adaptation of the French Scorpene subs. Indian naval planners now want to add Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) to the existing subs so that they can remain underwater for a much longer time to avoid destruction when they surface for refuelling. Eventually the Indian Navy plans to have a mixed fleet of SSNs, SSBNs and AIP-enabled platforms, which together can deter Pakistani and Chinese inroads into the Indian Ocean Region.
SSNs are powered by nuclear engines but do not fire nuclear tipped ballistic missiles whereas the SSBNs, of the Arihant class are nuclear submarines that also board missiles with atomic warheads. With support from France, India wants to convert all the Kalvari class submarines into the AIP mode.
In the aviation sector, India is looking not only for 100 per transfer of technology for making aircraft engines to power its indigenous twin engine fighter but also designing and development of next-generation high powered military and civilian engines for future fighter and transport platforms, the HT report said. It added that the Tata group has tied up with Airbus to manufacture C295 tactical transport aircraft in Vadodara in Gujarat. This line will expand to manufacture other civilian and military aircraft in a joint venture mode with France.
At a strategic level, India, France and the United Arab Emirates are partnering with each other for greater awareness of the maritime domain starting from the east African coastline of the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. France is an established Indo-Pacific power with military bases at La Rï¿½union and Mayotte in the Indian Ocean, apart from New Caledonia and French Polynesia in the Pacific.
Since the time of Charles de Gaulle, France has regarded itself as a ‘third pole’ of the international system and was only a late entrant into NATO. The undercurrent of an independent foreign policy in Paris docks well with India’s doctrine of strategic autonomy that allows New Delhi to engage with all powers in the east and the west without becoming an alliance partner with any.
An official statement released by the Ministry of External Affairs said that during the Strategic Dialogue and the meetings, India and France reiterated their commitment to take forward their strategic partnership to ensure peace, stability and security in the Indo-Pacific based on common beliefs in rules-based international order and strategic autonomy.
The statement added that two sides discussed the global security environment, expanding the scope of defence cooperation to include co-development of futuristic technologies in line with India’s priorities of ‘Make in India’ and ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’.
The agenda included discussions on the situation in Afghanistan, Africa, South East Asia, Eurasia; Third Country Cooperation; cooperation in the lndo-Pacific, nuclear energy, space and cyber domains. Both sides also agreed to strengthen bilateral defence and security cooperation, including in the South West Indian Ocean Region and the Indo-Pacific and pursuit of new initiatives in critical and emerging technologies.