President Emmanuel Macron has discussed cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as Paris deals with the fallout from Australia’s cancellation of a $40bn French submarine order.
The two leaders held a phone conversation on Tuesday, said a statement from Macron’s office, during which they also discussed issues such as the crisis in Afghanistan.
Australia said last week that it would scrap an earlier 2016 deal with France’s Naval Group to build a fleet of conventional submarines, and would instead build at least eight nuclear-powered submarines with US and British technology after striking a trilateral security partnership dubbed AUKUS.
Australia informed France only hours before pulling out of the submarines deal, according to the French government.
France called it a stab in the back.
Last week, Paris recalled its ambassadors from the United States and Australia after Australia cancelled the previous deal.
France is particularly furious with the US for secretly leading talks about the new strategic alliance.
China in turn has denounced AUKUS, warning of an intensified arms race in the region.
In their telephone talks, Macron and Modi said they would “act jointly in an open and inclusive Indo-Pacific area”.
Macron assured Modi of France’s continued “commitment to the strengthening of India’s strategic autonomy, including its industry and technology base, as part of a close relationship based on trust and mutual respect”.
The statement from Macron’s office said France and India’s shared approach would be aimed at promoting “regional stability and the rule of law, while ruling out any form of hegemony”.
Macron’s discussion with the Indian leader came before a planned conversation with US President Joe Biden.
Biden has requested a conversation with Macron, but no date has been set.