New Delhi. India and France held their second Dialogue on Maritime Cooperation in the Indian Ocean in New Delhi on January 19.
Initiated at the invitation of India’s Deputy NSA Arvind Gupta, the French delegation comprised senior civil and military officials, led by Vice-Admiral Hervé Denys de Bonnaventure, France’s maritime security coordinator. The French delegation included Marie-Hélène Maysounave, Special Representative for Counter-Piracy; Rear-Admiral Didier Piaton, Commander of the French Forces in the United Arab Emirates and Luc Hallade, Ambassador for Cooperation in the Indian Ocean.
Admiral Bonnaventure and Ambassador Hallade also participated in the Raisina Dialogue, India’s equivalent of Singapore’s Shangri-La Dialogue, organized by the Observer Research Foundation along with the Indian Ministry of External Affairs. Jacques Audibert, Diplomatic Adviser to the President of France, also participated in the Raisina Dialogue.
The French delegation emphasized that cooperation with India in the Indian Ocean was a key priority of the Indo-French strategic partnership. France, which is also an Indian Ocean rim nation through its overseas territories including Reunion Island, considers India to be a vital partner for stability and security in the region. They also stressed the importance of respecting international law and the freedom of navigation.
India and France signed a White Shipping Agreement at the meeting, enabling the exchange of information on maritime traffic as well as enhanced maritime domain awareness, particularly in the Indian Ocean. The Agreement is an important step forward in maritime security cooperation between the two countries.
Operational implementation of the agreement will follow in the forthcoming months, leading to a significant strengthening of cooperation between the Indian and French Navies for security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
As part of the visit, Rear Admiral Didier Piaton, Joint Force Commander of the French Forces deployed in Indian Ocean Region, paid a courtesy call on VSR Murthy, Additional Director General, during his visit to Indian Coast Guard Headquarters in New Delhi on January 19.
The Indian Coast Guard and the French Navy which also dons the role of the French Coast Guard are formidable forces providing SAR (search and rescue) services and pollution control services besides being law enforcement agencies in their respective area of responsibility. Enhanced collaboration between the two agencies would have a positive impact on addressing a variety of maritime issues in the Indian Ocean region. During discussions, both sides explored areas of co-operation on maritime issues, especially on marine pollution response, and also discussed issues of mutual interest to further strengthen ties between both the maritime organisations.