Anti-piracy operations off Somalia, stability in Afghanistan, terrorism in the region and safety of Indian Ocean topped the agenda of talks when French chief of defence staff Admiral Edouard Guillaud met India's top security leadership in New Delhi on Monday.
France sought India's continued cooperation in the fight against the sea brigands in the Gulf of Aden, apart from sharing concerns over the security situation in Afghanistan and the south Asian region, Admiral Guillaud told mediapersons after his meetings with the Indian security top brass.
Guillaud had met National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon, chairman of chiefs of staff committee and Indian Air Force Chief Air Chief Marshal P V Naik, Navy Chief Admiral Nirmal Verma and Army Chief General V K Singh during the day, as part of his four-day visit that began on Saturday. He will be visiting Mumbai to inspect the French-aided Scorpene submarine construction at the Mazagon Docks on Tuesday.
"There are certain common challenges for France and India -- safety and security of the Indian Ocean where piracy is widespread, situation in Afghanistan, terrorism in the region such as the Mumbai attacks," Guillaud said.
"As the largest democracy of the world, India can be the central player in starting a regional dialogue and this was one of the topics of my discussion with the Indian leadership," he added.
Noting that Arab crisis, Islamic terrorism and pirates operating in the Gulf of Aden were posing 'a great challenge' to global peace and stability, he said the India-initiated
On the supposed American forces withdrawal from Afghanistan in the mid-2011, the French defence chief said that was not his understanding of United States President Barack Obama's policy announcement in the middle of last year. He said it had been amply clarified that "suitable conditions" in Afghanistan should favour withdrawal and this assessment was in the International Security Assistance Force's leadership led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.
On Pakistan's role in Afghanistan, Guillaud said he favoured 'any process of reconciliation' in Kabul and that Islamabad was 'part of the solution and not part of the problem.' He also said that the French would, whenever required, make available naval port facilities in Djibouti in the Indian Ocean to Indian warships, and announced that French nuclear powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle would join a bilateral naval exercise off India in early 2011.