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French Connection: The Quad Runs Into Some Unintended Rough Weather

One cannot talk about the Indio-Pacific without mentioning the role of France in the Indian Ocean Region.

Zakka Jacob | CNN-News18

Updated:November 16, 2017, 9:32 AM IST
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French Connection: The Quad Runs Into Some Unintended Rough Weather
Narendra Modi and Donald Trump will hold bilateral meeting on Monday and likely to discuss several issues including the evolving security situation in the Indo-Pacific region where Washington favours a greater role by India.(Image; Narendra Modi/Twitter)
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New Delhi: While the obvious, intended target of The Quad maybe China and how to contain it, there are some other stakeholders who have not taken a particular liking to the coming together of India, Japan, US and Australia against an expansionist China. One cannot talk about the Indio-Pacific without mentioning the role of France in the Indian Ocean Region.

The three biggest islands in the IOR, Seychelles, Mauritius and Madagascar were all former French colonies. Even today there are more than two million French citizens in these waters spread over a two million square kilometre area. The largest French naval base outside of France is in Reunion Island which is part of the archipelago islands dotting the western Indian Ocean. There are still 10 islands that are Overseas French Territory.

French diplomatic sources while welcoming the formation of the Quad are also cautious about how far multilateral cooperation can go in these regards.

A top French diplomatic source says, “While we welcome the coming together of these four countries, how can we talk about the IOR without mentioning France. We are the largest player in the Western ring of the IOR. We have a Special Economic Zone in this region. There are more than 2 million of our citizens here. In such cases, we believe bilateral co-operation works much better than multi-lateral co-operation.”

There has been a fair amount of cooperation between Paris and New Delhi in the Indian Ocean Region. A big agreement on satellite imaging and navigation sharing was signed in Prime Minister Modi’s first visit to France in 2015. There is also an annual dialogue on maritime cooperation in the IOR.

France is also helping India build a grid of coastal surveillance radars. Hence the surprise, and to some extent, the consternation by senior French diplomatic sources on being left out of the discussions on The Quad.

The French also have major naval bases in Djibouti and the UAE. France having already established a deep presence in this region which would have been a valuable addition to the Quad to take on China’s ambitious Maritime Silk Route.

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| Edited by: Ananya Chakraborty
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