India and France to beef up fight against terrorism

Mr Modi (right) and Mr Hollande after a press conference in New Delhi yesterday. The French President is in India as the chief guest at the country's Republic Day parade.
Mr Modi (right) and Mr Hollande after a press conference in New Delhi yesterday. The French President is in India as the chief guest at the country's Republic Day parade.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Two countries also agree to focus on maritime security in Indian Ocean

India and France have agreed to step up counterterror and maritime cooperation, and moved a step closer to finalising a multibillion-dollar deal for the sale of French fighter planes during a visit by President Francois Hollande.

Mr Hollande, following talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, yesterday also vowed to repeatedly strike terror group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which is behind last year's Paris attacks that claimed 130 lives.

"France and India are both aware of the threats against peace, including terrorism because both our countries have been targeted over the past few months.

"We know who hit us; it is ISIS... They are provoking us in the worst possible manner," said Mr Hollande, who is in India as the chief guest at India's Republic Day parade today.

"We also decided on a road map to tackle all forms of trafficking in the Indian Ocean and to guarantee maritime security."

Both India and France have been the target of recent attacks, with India fending off an attack on an India Air Force base at the beginning of the year.

The Paris attacks bore similarities to a 2008 attack on Mumbai, where terrorists struck multiple locations, including a five-star hotel, killing 166 people.

The two countries yesterday also released a joint statement exclusively on terror, urging Pakistan to take action against perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks and the air force base, while urging greater international unity in fighting terror.

"Terrorism is against humanity. To fight this, we have to unite," said Mr Modi.

The two sides also signed an inter-governmental agreement for France to sell 36 French-built Rafale fighter planes to India in a deal estimated to be worth US$9 billion (S$13 billion). Though the financial details are yet to be finalised, Mr Hollande called it "decisive".

Experts said the growing focus on terror and maritime security would likely see an increase in naval exercises between the two countries.

"The Indian Prime Minister gave us a sense of why he called the French President - because of the enormity of Paris and common threat of terrorism. The fact that the footprint of terror can be any direction, Jakarta one day and Paris another.... that is the challenge," said Mr Uday Bhaskar, director of the Society for Policy Studies in India.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 26, 2016, with the headline 'India and France to beef up fight against terrorism'. Print Edition | Subscribe