Macron and Modi vow to ‘act jointly’ in Indo-Pacific as submarine row intensifies

With disputes over a French deal to sell naval vessels to India's arch-rival, China, French President Emmanuel Macron and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi agreed on Saturday to "act jointly" in the Indo-Pacific region.

Macron and Modi vow to ‘act jointly’ in Indo-Pacific as submarine row intensifies

French President Emmanuel Macron and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi agreed on Saturday to "act jointly" in the Indo-Pacific region, despite a dispute over a French deal to sell naval vessels to India's arch-rival, China. In a joint statement after their talks in Paris, both leaders said they would work together for peace and prosperity in the region. "The two leaders underscored that India and France will act together in matters of maritime security," the statement said. "This includes ensuring freedom of navigation and safety of sea lanes."

Macron and Modi's meeting in Paris

It comes after the head of the French armed forces recently warned that India's purchase of submarines from the UK could have a negative impact on French defence exports. New Delhi has agreed to purchase six submarines from the British company, the first since 2012, for a reported €3.1 billion ($3.84 billion). The French are concerned that the deal could damage French defence equipment makers including DCNS, which makes the Scorpene submarines for India. The French defence minister recently told a French newspaper that he was worried about the submarine sale, noting that in the past decade, some 20 French defence companies had lost some of their competitiveness on the Indian market.

The Indo-Pacific region

The statement refers to the western, southern and eastern oceans. In January, France said it would sell two Indian submarines in a deal worth more than 5 billion euros ($6.13 billion). However, China quickly lodged a diplomatic complaint and India's national security adviser, Ajit Doval, summoned the French ambassador to New Delhi to protest. In response to the row, Modi sent Doval to meet with his French counterpart, Gérard Araud, in Paris in February. Doval said the issue of France selling advanced naval vessels to a rival power would not "fly" in the future.

Macron and Modi's regional cooperation

New Delhi and Paris are increasingly looking at a multi-dimensional relationship in the region, Macron said on Saturday, adding that he and Modi would work together to ensure a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific. Read more: France and India: a rare example of peaceful Indo-Pakistani ties "We will also work with other partners for a free, open, inclusive and multi-polar Indo-Pacific," Macron said. This was the first high-profile visit by the Indian prime minister to France after India voted against the United States-led UN resolution condemning Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Modi is scheduled to visit the US in June for a meeting with Trump. His trip to France is seen as a bid to repair strained bilateral ties.

Conclusion

Macron, who met Modi on the sidelines of a global climate summit, said the two countries would set up a "high-level group of experts" to explore cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region. The deal to supply two nuclear-powered submarines to India was scrapped by India earlier this year after the defence ministry said the price was too high. In addition to a host of bilateral issues, the two leaders also discussed Brexit and how to safeguard and ensure prosperity for all European countries after Britain's exit from the European Union.