India, France sign pact on maritime information sharing in Indian Ocean Region

NEW DELHI: India and France has signed White Shipping agreement to enable information sharing on maritime traffic and maritime domain awareness in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) amid China's expanding naval forays in the area where India wants to establish itself as the net security provider.

The agreement was signed on January 19 here when the two sides held their second dialogue on maritime cooperation for the Indian Ocean Region.

The White Shipping Agreement will be implemented over the next few months enabling Navies of India and France to coordinate their roles in stabilising Indo-Pacific region, persons familiar with the developments indicated. It will enhance Indo-French maritime security cooperation in the region.

The Indo-French dialogue also emphasised on Freedom of Navigation in IOR and Pacific in the backdrop of China's territorial claims and dominance in the South China Sea region.

Delhi and Paris have been coordinating their naval movements and surveillance in the Indian Ocean Region over the last couple of years. France retains interests and assets with territories like Reunion Islands in the IOR. It is no secret that China's expanding interests in IOR with presence in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Maldives has been closely followed by Delhi which has key security and trade interests in the IOR as the biggest country in the region.

It may be recalled that India and France firmed up cooperation on sharing of radars in the Indian Ocean during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Paris in 2015. While India is setting up a grid of coastal surveillance radars in the IOR that will enable it to monitor, among other things, the increasing Chinese presence in the area, France has interest in sharing data from surveillance systems on its Indian Ocean territories.

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