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Relevant for: International Relations | Topic: Europe, European Union (EU) and India

Strong bonds:A French crew boarded the Indian Navy’s P-8I aircraft for the joint patrol of the Reunion Island.File photo  

India and France have conducted joint patrols from the Reunion Island for the first time, signalling New Delhi’s intent to engage with friendly foreign partners in expanding its footprint on the Indian Ocean, focusing on the stretch between the East African coastline and the Malacca straits.

India has so far carried out coordinated patrols only with maritime neighbours and had rejected a similar offer by the U.S.

The Indian Navy conducted a joint patrol with with the French Navy from the Reunion Island in February. The patrol was conducted by a P-8I aircraft with French Navy personnel onboard, two defence sources independently confirmed to The Hindu .

Greater understanding

“We have robust engagement with the French,” one of them said. The surveillance was done in the southern Indian Ocean off Mauritius. “The P-8I was there for a week,” he said.

There was greater understanding between India and France on each other’s concerns, especially in the maritime domain, the source said. “They also have capacity constraints there, and we can share responsibilities. The patrols will be periodic. There is no set pattern,” the source added.

As reported by The Hindu last November, visiting French Navy Chief Admiral Christophe Prazuck had stated that they were “looking forward to organising joint patrols with the Indian Navy” in 2020 and working on the precise objectives. Speaking at an event, he said the region of the patrols could be north-western Indian Ocean or southern Indian Ocean “around the islands that are part of France”.

“France is a safe country for us, there will be no concerns in conducting joint patrols with them,” a third official said on why France was the first country selected to conduct joint patrols. France is also the first country to deploy a liaison officer at the Indian Navy’s Information Fusion Centre (IFC-IOR) as part of efforts to improve maritime domain awareness (MDA).

Major strategic partner

France has steadily emerged as a major strategic partner for India with big-ticket defence deals and increased military-to-military engagement.

The Indian Navy is currently inducting French Scorpene conventional submarines, being built in India under technology transfer, and the Indian Air Force will soon get the first batch of its 36 Rafale fighter jets.

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