WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India
Mar 06, 2018, 03.39 AM
Amid significant rise in presence of Chinese ships and submarines in the Indian Ocean region, India is looking to build strong ties with France and the US.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who is set to visit India this weekeend, plans to hold talks with PM Modi on maritime security.
India and France have bonded over Indian Ocean issue, 'Reunion' is a French Island in the Indian Ocean houses one of France's largest naval bases.
The two countries have realised that the way forward is closer bilateral cooperation, rather than "rushing" into a multilateral format, significant at a time when pluri-laterals or mini-laterals find favour.
France is now in talks with India for giving Indian warships access to facilities in the island and hopes to clinch the agreement during Macron's visit. This could bore strategic significance for France and now possibly India.
If the deal works in India's favour, Indian naval presence could extend to the French bases in Abu Dhabi in UAE and Djibouti in the horn of Africa which is home to United States permanent military base as well as bases belonging to France, Italy, Japan and China.
China opened a base in Djibouti in August last year.
India counts France as its trusted strategic partner. Moreover, "Reunion" has another Indian connection - it is home to people of Indian origin who were brought to the island as indentured labour from India in the 19th century.
India-China rivalry in Indian ocean region has increasingly given headaches to Indian officials. While China maintains its ships patrol international waters to provide safe passage to its merchant ships, many countries regard an increasing deployment of military vessels as part of China's "expansionist policies". India, in particular, is cautious due to reports that China plans to deploy a "nuclear submarine" at Pakistan's Gwadar port - close to Indian waters.
China has presence in Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
Indian is raising its profile by having strategic pacts in the region:
India has signed a logistics pact with US giving access to Indian ships in US bases.
India is also developing Chabahar port in Iran to "counter" Chinese presence in Pak
Oman agreed to provide Indian navy with its facility in Duqm.
India also has agreements with Mauritius and Seychelles.
In the east, India is helping Myanmar develop the "Sittwe" port.
India and Vietnam have stepped up their relation and Singapore has allowed the use of its naval base for "docking", referring as well as "re-arming".
France remains the largest resident power in the Indian Ocean with the largest amount of real estate, including about 11 million sq km of exclusive economic zone particularly in the Mozambique channel with over 10 islands as part of French overseas territories. For France's military bases in Djibouti, Abu Dhabi and Reunion Islands, India regards it as an attractive strategic partner.
India and France are also hoping to get an agreement between NPCIL (Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited) and EDF (of France) on six nuclear reactors that could lead to greater indigenisation of components and services for the reactors.