India and France have agreed to intensify maritime cooperation in the Indo-Pacific and increase militaries' naval visits as they strive to build a balanced and stable order in the strategically important region, with respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's vision of SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region) and President Emmanuel Macron's vision of security and cooperation outlined in the Indo-Pacific Strategy of France are very much aligned, said the 'India-France Indo-Pacific Roadmap', released after the bilateral talks between the two leaders here on Friday.
"We believe that the India-France partnership will be a crucial pillar of the inter-connected and intersecting arrangements in the Indo-Pacific region and indispensable for a peaceful and prosperous future for the Indo-Pacific region," the two leaders said, amidst an assertive China flexing its muscle in the region.
France has a sizable presence in the Indo-Pacific region in territories such as Reunion Island, New Caledonia and French Polynesia which are home to nearly 1.5 million people. The territories also serve as a military base for France in the region.
India has been participating in coordinated surveillance missions using its P8I Long Range Maritime Reconnaissance aircraft with the French Navy at Reunion Island.
Earlier, at a joint press event with Macron, Modi on Friday said India and France have a special responsibility to ensure peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific.
"As resident powers of the Indo-Pacific, India and France have special responsibility for peace and stability in the region," he said.
"We welcome the decision by France to lead the Maritime Resource Pillar in India's Indo-Pacific Ocean Initiative, the Prime Minister said.
"We will continue to deepen our exchanges, cooperate on situational and domain awareness, intensify maritime cooperation across the region such as the one we conduct in the South West Indian Ocean Region in liaison with partner countries in the region," they said.
The two countries also vowed to increase militaries' naval visits and develop defence industrial capabilities in India and jointly support the needs of other countries.
"We will continue to develop our comprehensive cooperation including the French overseas territories of La Reunion, New Caledonia and French Polynesia and in coordination with other countries in the region and beyond," they said.
India and France asserted that they will continue to work together to extend development cooperation to countries in the region, including in Africa, the Indian Ocean Region, South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
"We will strengthen our plurilateral arrangement with Australia and UAE and build new ones in the region. We will strengthen our cooperation in regional forums such as the Indian Ocean Rim Association, Indian Ocean Naval Symposium, the Indian Ocean Commission, Djibouti Code of Conduct, the ADMM+ and ARF," the two countries said.
They also said that they will strengthen maritime security coordination through IFC-IOR in India, EMASoH in UAE and Atalanta, RCOC in Seychelles, RMIFC in Madagascar and ReCAAP in Singapore.
France also supports India's willingness to join Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), the statement said.
Both countries said they will work together to advance the objectives of the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative which aims to address common challenges in the region through collaborative actions under its seven pillars.
India and France also vowed to set up the Indo-French Health Campus for the Indo-Pacific, with the aim of making it a regional magnet for research and academia. Building on the experience in the Indian Ocean, we may consider opening the Campus to Pacific Island Nationals, they said.
Under France's lead on the Maritime Resources pillar, the two countries said, they will work together to implement practical projects, in synergy with, and under, the various bilateral, regional and global initiatives by the two sides, for creating an ecosystem for the sustainable development of maritime resources and combatting activities like Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
China is engaged in hotly contested territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas. Beijing has also made substantial progress in militarising its man-made islands in the past few years.
Beijing claims sovereignty over all of the South China Sea. But Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan have counterclaims. In the East China Sea, China has territorial disputes with Japan.
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