NEW DELHI: In the midst of an escalating diplomatic crisis between France, US and Australia, external affairs minister S Jaishankar dialled his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian on Saturday to discuss the latest situation in Afghanistan and Indo-Pacific issues.
"Discussed recent developments in the Indo-Pacific and Afghanistan with my friend FM @JY_LeDrian._Looking forward to our New York meeting," Jaishankar tweeted.
France is one of India's closest strategic partners and in the Indo-Pacific Region, India, France and Australia have begun a trilateral whose interests and activities could even converge with the Quad in the future. However, with France having withdrawn its envoys from both Canberra and Washington, the trilateral might be in a tough spot for some time.
Questioned about this, Australian envoy to India, Barry O'Farrell, said Australia continues to consider France to be a key strategic partner.
Paris recalled its ambassadors to Australia and the US in protest against a deal among the United States, Australia and Britain (AUKUS) to supply Australia with a fleet of at least eight nuclear-power submarines. This led to scrapping of Australia's 66 billion dollar 2016 deal with French majority state-owned Naval Group for supply of 12 conventional diesel-electric submarines.
The India-France conversation covered a couple of important issues - the EU launching its Indo-Pacific strategy a day after AUKUS was announced, which will have implications for the EU-India relationship too. The EU strategy statement said it would "explore ways to ensure enhanced naval deployments by the EU member-states to help protect the sea lanes of communication and freedom of navigation". The question will be how much military muscle the EU countries would be willing to deploy in the Indo-Pacific.
On Afghanistan, France and India see interests converging. Unlike many countries in the EU, France has taken a tougher stand on Taliban.