Macron and Modi vow to ‘act together’ in Indo-Pacific as submarine dispute escalates

French President Emmanuel Macron and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi vowed on Tuesday to “act jointly” in the Indo-Pacific region as the dispute with Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom over a submarine contract escalated. sunken.

Macron’s phone conversation with Modi was conspicuously timed, as French anger over Australia’s cancellation of a submarine contract in favor of American nuclear submarines as part of an alliance with Washington and the United Kingdom seemed not. have decreased.

US officials have said US President Joe Biden is seeking a phone call with Macron to ease tensions, while Macron has taken the unprecedented step of calling French ambassadors to Australia and the United States.

The French presidency said that Macron and Modi agreed that they would “act together in an open and inclusive Indo-Pacific area.”

Macron assured Modi of France’s continued “commitment to strengthening India’s strategic autonomy, including its industry and technology base, as part of a close relationship based on trust and mutual respect.”

The statement from Macron’s office said their shared approach was aimed at promoting “regional stability and the rule of law, while ruling out any form of hegemony.”

The two leaders also expressed their “grave concerns about the situation in Afghanistan” following the US withdrawal and the Taliban takeover of the country.

Calling Macron “my friend” in a tweet, Modi said that India placed “great value on our strategic partnership with France.”

I spoke with my friend President @EmmanuelMacron about the situation in Afghanistan. We also discuss closer collaboration between India and France in the Indo-Pacific. We highly value our strategic partnership with France, including in the United Nations Security Council.

– Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) September 21, 2021

Modi’s office added in a statement that both countries had an “important role” for stability and security in the Indo-Pacific region.

The commitment to stability in the Indo-Pacific region would be under “the framework of the Europe-India relationship and European initiatives in the Indo-Pacific,” said a statement released by the French embassy in New Delhi.

The phone call between the two leaders came days after Australia announced the cancellation of a deal with a $ 40 billion French submarine. Canberra, instead, announced plans to buy American nuclear-powered submarines under a new three-way strategic alliance between the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, known as AUKUS, aimed at countering the growing power of China.

Indian media have speculated that the cancellation of the deal could trigger a Franco-Indian submarine deal.

Paris has sought in recent years to strengthen ties with India. In 2016, the two parties signed a multi-million dollar deal for 36 French Rafale fighter jets for New Delhi.

While the deal is under investigation in France on bribery allegations, it is seen as a commercial and diplomatic success for Paris.

France seeks ‘clarification’

France has accused its allies of “stabbing in the back” after learning that the United States had secretly led the talks on the new strategic alliance.

Australia informed France just hours before pulling out of the $ 66 billion deal for French diesel-powered submarines, according to Paris.

But Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Sunday that Canberra had “deep and grave” concerns about French submarines and that Paris was aware of these misgivings.

In the next call with Biden, Macron will demand “clarification,” political adviser Stéphane Séjourné said on Tuesday, adding that it would not be “a reconciliation conversation.”

He said the way the Franco-Australian deal was canceled raised many questions, “including about the concept of what it means to be an ally of the Americans.”

Behind the ruined contract were deeper differences over strategies in the Indo-Pacific, he said.

France, which has a presence in the region through overseas territories such as New Caledonia, has been trying to defuse tensions in the area. But “the United States is more in a confrontation with China,” Séjourné said.

‘Bad news’ for Australia

French Defense Ministry spokesman Hervé Grandjean wrote on Twitter that the breached deal was “bad news” for Australia.

“The first attack submarines were to be delivered in 2030. With this new AUKUS partnership, it will be more like 2040. That’s a long time, when you see how quickly China is militarizing,” he said.

European ministers rallied around France as the submarine dispute threatened to delay trade talks with Washington and Canberra.

German Minister for Europe Michael Roth said France’s diplomatic crisis with the United States was a “wake-up call for all of us” to unite an EU often divided on foreign and security policy.

French submarine maker Naval Group has started talks on a financial deal with Canberra, the French Defense Ministry said.

The Naval Group had already completed 900 million euros ($ 1.1 billion) in work on the submarines, he said, but suffered no losses as the work was covered by Australian payments already made.

But calling the withdrawal “a betrayal”, the ministry said the talks would now determine the size of the “compensation and damages” owed by Australia.

( Jowhar with AFP)

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