France to lead quad naval exercise in Indo-Pacific with China

France to lead quad naval exercise in Indo-Pacific with China

NEW DELHI / PARIS – In a first, India will join its Quad partners – Australia, Japan and the United States – in a French-led naval exercise in the Bay of Bengal next week, as nations seek to improve the ‘Indo-Pacific maritime security.
The first edition of Exercise La Pérouse, named after an 18th-century French naval officer and explorer, was held in 2019 without India.

Three days of exercises will take place from Monday. They “will provide an opportunity for these five high-end like-minded naval forces to develop closer ties, sharpen their skills and promote maritime cooperation in a free and open Indo-Pacific,” said the French Embassy in New Delhi in a press release. statement Wednesday.

The exercise follows the first Quad leaders summit, held virtually on March 12, and considered a defining moment in Asian geopolitics. This was followed by US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s visit to New Delhi as part of his first overseas trip since taking office – a tour that also included Japan and South Korea.

The four quadruple nations have teamed up for a maritime exercise following the November 2020 Malabar exercise in the Indo-Pacific. With France, the four nations should take this cooperation to a new height.

“The importance of this gathering of Quad nations for a multilateral military exercise is not lost on those who carefully monitor this space,” said NC Bipindra, defense and strategic affairs analyst and editor at the Defense.Capital news portal , at Nikkei Asia. “Clearly, China will be one of those observers of what is happening closer to home, as it has raised the stakes in the Indo-Pacific in recent years through its aggressive military activity. ”

The Quad – a cowardly security group – and France frequently speak in various forums about the need for freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific, a euphemism for China’s “illegal” maritime land claims in the China Sea. southern.

“It is only natural to see the maritime military exercise of La Pérouse as an initiative of these five countries to practice naval maneuvers for interoperability during a crisis situation in the region,” said Bipindra.

“This is an indicator of how the future will play out in the geopolitical dynamics of the region,” he said, adding that it also appears that the initial flicker at the end of the tunnel for the Quad itself. same is growing with the inclusion of other democracies that have issues in the region such as France and the UK

“We are already talking about Quads like the NATO of Asia. ”

Cadets of the French naval frigate Surcouf arrive at the port of Cochin, Kochi, India on March 30. © AFP / Jiji

Isabelle Saint-Mezard, associate researcher at the French Institute of International Relations, said the upcoming La Pérouse exercise signals that France “is a stakeholder in like-minded, variable-geometry coalitions” that want to promote the law. of the sea, freedom of navigation, peaceful conflict resolution and, in short, a rules-based multilateral order.

“This type of cooperation, flexible and still not very institutionalized, seems to be a privileged tool of action in the immense space that is the Indo-Pacific”, she declared to Nikkei Asia.

A few days before La Perouse, the navies of India and the United States also conducted an exercise in the eastern Indian Ocean region on March 28 and 29. The Indian side deployed an INS Shivalik guided missile frigate and P8I long-range maritime patrol aircraft, while the USS Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group participated on the US side. An Indian Navy spokesperson said the exercise consolidated the synergy and interoperability achieved during Malabar 2020.

In La Pérouse, two French warships – Tonnerre and Surcouf – will participate. The two ships form the Joan of Arc battle group, which left France in February for a five-month deployment to the Indo-Pacific with the aim of training a new cohort of 148 French naval cadets.


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