xternal Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar on Saturday discussed the recent developments in the Indo-Pacific and Afghanistan with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, amid the escalating tensions between France and the US and Australia over a deal to provide Canberra with nuclear-powered submarines.
“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 has recalled its ambassadors to Washington and Canberra in response to the new trilateral security partnership formed between the US, UK and Australia, called ‘AUKUS’, under which they will provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarine technology.
On Thursday, Australia said it would scrap a $40 billion deal signed in 2016 for France’s Naval Group to build a fleet of conventional submarines.
Le Drian has termed it unacceptable behaviour.
“The cancellation (of the project) … and the announcement of a new partnership with the United States meant to launch studies on a possible future cooperation on nuclear-powered submarines, constitute unacceptable behavior between allies and partners,” he said in a statement.
Le Drian had called the move as a breach of trust and said he was “angry and bitter”.
“This brutal, unilateral and unpredictable decision reminds me a lot of what Mr Trump used to do,” he told Franceinfo radio. “This isn’t done between allies.”
Two weeks ago, the Australian defence and foreign ministers had reconfirmed to Paris the 2016 deal with French shipbuilder Naval Group to replace France’s more than two-decades-old Collins submarines.
“It’s a stab in the back. We created a relationship of trust with Australia and that trust has been broken,” Le Drian said.
Asked if Paris had been “duped” by Washington over what Le Drian once called a “contract of the century” for France’s naval yards, the minister replied: “Your analysis of the situation is more or less correct.”
Australia said on Saturday that it regretted the recall, and that it valued the relationship with France.
“Australia understands France’s deep disappointment with our decision, which was taken in accordance with our clear and communicated national security interests,” a spokesperson for Foreign Minister Marise Payne said in a statement.
US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said that France was a ‘vital ally’ and that the United States would be engaged in coming days to resolve the differences.
Meanwhile, France will have delivered a total of 35 omni-role Rafale fighters by the end of 2021 to India with a last fighter making a solo journey to the Hashimara air base in north Bengal in January 2022.
In addition, the Indian Air Force has signed a contract to buy phased out Mirage aircraft of the French Air Force.