Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday spoke to French President Emmanuel Macron on co-operation between the two countries in the Indo-Pacific region. The two leaders had a telephonic conversation, Reuters reported, citing a statement from Macron’s office.
The talks hold significance amid a multinational diplomatic crisis in the aftermath of scrapping of a submarine deal between France and Australia last week.
On September 15, Australia had announced a trilateral pact with the United States and the United Kingdom. Under the deal, Australia will receive a nuclear-powered submarine fleet from the US.
The Australian government entered the deal by scrapping a 2016 agreement, under which it had selected French shipbuilder Naval Group to build a new submarine fleet worth $40 billion (over Rs 2.94 lakh crore).
The US-UK-Australia deal focuses on the concerns of these countries about China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region. On the other hand, France itself holds overseas territories of New Caledonia and French Polynesia in the region.
In response to the trilateral deal, France on Saturday recalled the country’s ambassadors to Australia and the US.
French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has accused Australia of “stabbing in the back” and criticised the US for its “unilateral, sudden and unforeseeable decision”. However, Australia has maintained that it had been “upfront, open and honest” with France about its concerns regarding the scrapped deal.
The statement from Macron’s office on Tuesday about his discussion with Modi did not make any direct reference to the scrapped and the new deal. But, the mention of co-operation in Indo-Pacific region holds significance.
On Tuesday, France also urged its European Union partners to consider whether to delay negotiations on the bloc’s future trade agreements with Australia, AP reported.
French European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune said that he would discuss the trade pact as well as security implications of the US-UK-Australia deal in summits and ministerial meetings of the European Union next month.
Submarine deal will not have an impact on Quad, says India
Meanwhile, India’s Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla on Tuesday said that the trilateral deal will not have an impact on the Quad grouping, comprising India, the US, Australia and Japan.
“The Quad and the AUKUS [Australia-UK-US] are not groupings of similar nature,” Shringla told reporters, according to ANI. “Quad [is] designed to cater to requirements of the Indo-Pacific. AUKUS is a security alliance between three countries. AUKUS is not relevant to Quad and will have no impact on Quad’s functioning.”
Shringla also asserted that the submarines that Australia receives under the deal will be “nuclear-propelled” ones, but would not have nuclear weapons.
“As such [it] will not be in contravention with any of Australia’s, international commitments with regard to the issue of nuclear proliferation,” the foreign secretary said.