France and Australia hint at reviving trilateral with India

France and Australia, India’s key partners in the Indo-Pacific region, have hinted at reviving the trilateral involving New Delhi to stabilise the Indian Ocean Region amid worries over China’s aggressive posturing. This came up on Friday during the new Australian prime minister’s visit to Paris, ET has learnt.

The trilateral had been put on the backburner since earlier this year after France developed cold feet following Australia’s decision to scrap the submarine deal and launch AUKUS to acquire nuclear-powered submarines with US and UK assistance.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese welcomed what he called was a “new start” in relations with France, as he met President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Friday. Acknowledging “difficult times”, Macron emphasised the two countries’ strategic partnership, their shared war history in Europe and their joint interests in stability in the Pacific region.

A fissure had developed between allies France and Australia after the previous Australian PM, Scott Morrison, secretly negotiated to buy US-designed submarines and dropped an Aus$50 billion (33 billion euros) submarine contract signed with France in 2016.

“Australia and France will shape a new defence relationship and strengthen our collaboration and exchange on shared security interests, including through operational engagement and intelligence sharing,” according to the joint statement issued on Friday following talks between the leaders of Australia and France. “We are determined to be active in regional fora and to enhance security cooperation with Pacific countries, in particular on maritime surveillance with regional agencies, and in the Indian Ocean, including in partnership with India.”

The statement said, “We will support each other’s deployments and conduct more joint maritime activities in support of the rules-based global order. We will also explore initiatives to deepen and facilitate better reciprocal access to our defence facilities. This will build on our long-established mutual logistical support arrangements.”

Australia welcomed the French Indo-Pacific strategy.

“Australia and France are nations of both the Pacific and the Indian Oceans. As neighbours, we share a long history of cooperation in the region, including French territories…” the joint statement noted.

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