In a first, the Indian and French navies are to start coordinated patrols in the Indian Ocean region, as the two countries look at deepening maritime cooperation. This is the first time that the Indian Navy will be conducting coordinated patrols with any country outside its immediate neighbourhood.

French navy chief Christophe Prazuck who is on a visit to India and who held talks with his Indian counterpart Karambir Singh on Monday, said India and France would be starting the patrols sometime next year.

Speaking at an event at the Observer Research Foundation think tank in New Delhi, Prazuck outlined France’s Indo-Pacific strategy noting that though mainland France was far away from the Indo-Pacific region, French overseas territories like Reunion Island ensured that 93% of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is located in the Indo-Pacific region.

Added to this was the fact that 70% of French trade passed through the Straits of Babel Mandeb, Hormuz and Malacca, Prazuck said. “Security of these vital arteries have a direct relationship with our country’s prosperity," the French naval chief said.

France is also a “committed player in the international rules based order" which is the reason it is present in the South China Sea, Prazuck said. There were islands and features that were contested in the key arterial waterway but the French presence was aimed at ensuring that the Sea Lanes of Communication (SLOC) remained open and secure for trade, he said.

Commenting on the increased Chinese presence in Europe, Prazuck acknowledged that it had grown in recent years, prompting countries in the region to keep an eye on the development. He added that piracy off the coast of Somalia was the reason for China to start patrols in the northern Indian Ocean that had later expanded to include a naval base in Djibouti. More recently, the Chinese had increased its footprint to cover Europe looking at establishing bases at Athens and Trieste among other places.

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