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NEW DELHI: Ahead of the induction of the first 5 Rafales in Ambala on Thursday, French defence minister Florence Parly tells Rajat Pandit India & France are further consolidating their Indo-Pacific partnership
How does France view the military confrontation between India and China?
• We are following it carefully. I was sad to learn of the death of 20 Indian soldiers on June 15. I wrote to my counterpart Rajnath Singh to express condolences to the armed forces. It is important that de-escalation and disengagement be achieved through dialogue, in full respect of international law and, in particular, the non-use or threat of force. No country can use the fait accompli policy. We know that the Indian government is determined to follow this path in favour of peace and regional stability.
Could you tell us about the prospects of India-France strategic partnership?
• Our strategic partnership dates back to 1998 but the proof of our mutual attachment and trust has been particularly evident in recent months. Take Covid-19. We helped each other during the worst of the epidemic, including through the delivery of medical assistance by the French Air Force and a €200 million assistance by AFD (French Development Agency). Indo-French friendship is also about standing together in difficult times.
President Macron and PM Modi have decided to deepen and expand our strategic partnership. As two maritime nations and neighbours in Indian Ocean, we will keep working towards an Indo-Pacific that is peaceful, prosperous and where international law is upheld. I definitely welcome India’s election to the UNSC from 2021.
Has India raised the prospect of ordering more Rafale fighters?
• Rafale is typical of the quality of the strategic partnership. France is a reliable partner and all 36 Rafales will be delivered by 2022. Looking forward, I hope we will be able to agree on an additional order of Rafales.
How are India & France cooperating on maritime security in Indo-Pacific?
• President Macron’s visit to India in March 2018 and PM Modi’s visit to France in August 2019 set out and consolidated the joint vision for the Indo-Pacific. My job, with minister Rajnath Singh, is to execute it through concrete military cooperation. We share maritime surveillance data. Our joint naval exercises are increasingly complex and ambitious. Our navies are more interoperable, and we have organised our first joint patrol in the south-western Indian Ocean earlier this year.

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