NEW DELHI: India and its oldest strategic partner in the West, France, have decided to take measures to strengthen their Indo-Pacific partnership with the foreign secretary visiting Paris to meet a cross section of policy makers amid the standoff with China along the Line of Actual Control.

It was decided during foreign secretary Harsh Shringla’s visit last week that France and India will take forward their shared approach on the Indo-Pacific partnership through several cooperation mechanisms, including between the foreign offices, ministries of defence, and military and civilian entities, ET has reliably gathered.

Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region now finds a prominent place in the Indo-French bilateral agenda as the two countries cooperate closely in the Western and Southern Indian Ocean.

France was the first European country to launch an Indo-Pacific strategy and India is a key pillar in that strategy. The French government is among a handful of governments that has appointed an Ambassador for the Indo-Pacific region where Paris has assets, including territories.

Shringla, while referring to the growing Indo-Pacific cooperation at one of the leading French think tanks during his visit, said: “India and France are strong partners in the Indo-Pacific. We are united in our vision of the importance of maintaining a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific. We remain committed to upholding the rules-based international order, underpinned by the rule of law, transparency, freedom of navigation in the international seas, respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty, and peaceful resolution of disputes”.

India’s objective, according to the foreign secretary, remained advancing the security and the economic interests of all countries having legitimate and vital interests in the region. “Our Indo-Pacific concept has gained increasingly wider acceptance. In this context, the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative that we tabled at the East Asia Summit last year holds considerable promise.”

Shringla further highlighted the recently-held India-France-Australia trilateral dialogue which witnessed convergence among the three countries on issues such as protecting global marine commons and HADR and maritime security in the Indo-Pacific.

France is present in the Indo-Pacific region via its overseas territories and 93% of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is located in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The region is home to 1.5 million French people, as well as 8,000 soldiers stationed in the region.

In May 2018, French President Emmanuel Macron made the term “Indo-Pacific” a concept of French foreign policy for the first time. “In an international context marked by uncertainty and the increase in unilateralism, France’s priority is to propose an alternative: a stable, multipolar order based on the rule of law and free movement, and fair and efficient multilateralism. The Indo-Pacific region is at the heart of this strategy,” according to the French Foreign Ministry Indo-Pacific strategy paper.

Seven areas of action are proposed for the implementation of the French strategy in the Indo-Pacific, focusing on the four priorities for French diplomacy identified by Macron.