France strengthens ties with Indonesia after defence setback

JAKARTA (AFP) – France and Indonesia strengthened a strategic partnership agreement yesterday that includes bolstering defence ties as Paris regroups in the Indo-Pacific after the collapse of a multibillion-dollar submarine deal with Australia.

Paris was furious after Australia ditched the submarine deal in September, saying it had been given no warning that Canberra was negotiating a new defence pact with the United States (US) and Britain, which left France rethinking its alliances in the Indo-Pacific.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian met with his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi in Jakarta to sign an action plan that he said will strengthen the two “countries’ strategic partnership” and improve ties “in defence and maritime affairs”.

During the two-day visit, Le Drian also met with Indonesia’s Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto, who leads Jakarta’s ongoing negotiations for the acquisition of 36 Rafale fighter jets, but no deal was announced.

Jakarta has also shown interest in procuring submarines, corvettes and other military equipment.

Australia said it had decided to obtain nuclear-powered submarines in a new defence alliance, named AUKUS, with the US and Britain.

France has since looked to bolster alliances with its long time partners, Japan and India, but has also turned its attention to Southeast Asian nations, including Indonesia, for deeper strategic ties in the Pacific region.

Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi with her French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian during his visit to Jakarta. PHOTO: AFP