In a bid to keep an eye on Chinese moves in the Indo-Pacific region, India and France are likely to sign a pact on maritime surveillance when Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets French President Emmanuel Macron on August 22 in Paris.
Both countries have planned the launch of 8-10 satellites as part of a “constellation” for maritime surveillance in the region. This will be India’s largest space cooperation with any country so far, sources said. They said the satellites will focus on the Indian Ocean, a region that has been witnessing increasing Chinese presence. The purpose of the constellation is monitoring sea traffic management, sources said, adding that it would take less than five years to launch the satellites.
French Space Agency CNES, in collaboration with Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), is also setting up a maritime surveillance centre in the country.
Several crucial sea lanes of communications pass through the Indian Ocean, a region critical to the strategic interests of India and France. While the Indian Ocean region is the prime focus for New Delhi, Paris has its territories spread across the Indian Ocean, the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean, sources said.
This will be among the key takeaways from Modi’s two-day visit to France. During his visit, Modi will hold talks with French President Emmanuel Macron to strengthen strategic ties in key sectors such as defence, nuclear energy, maritime cooperation and counter-terrorism.
The discussions are expected to broadly focus on reaffirming France and India as the key strategic and like-minded partners, strengthening of the defence partnership — including future defence acquisitions, progress on set up of the Jaitapur nuclear power plant, convergent, strategic and political priorities in the Indo-Pacific and related operational needs, Secretary (Economic Relations) in Ministry of External Affairs T S Tirumurti said at a media briefing on Monday.
From France, Modi will proceed for bilateral visits to the UAE and Bahrain, and will return to the French city of Biarritz on August 25 to attend the G7 Summit where India has been invited as a partner country.