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February 23, 2021: Briefings on South Asia


1) India and France to Hold Naval Drills in the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean

· In April, India and France will cement their defense cooperation when the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier strike force will conduct exercises with aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya in two phases in the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean.

· April will also see renewed French engagement with India, with FM Jean-Yves Le Drian visiting India to deliver a lecture and engage in political dialogue.

· Delivery of seven Rafale jets from France will take place between April 19 and 23, completing the first squadron of the French omni-role fighter at the Ambala airbase.

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2) China Backs India Hosting this Year's BRICS Summit

· China on Monday expressed its support for India in hosting this year's BRICS summit and said it would work with New Delhi to strengthen the cooperation among the five-member grouping of emerging economies.

· Xi Jinping has attended all the annual summits of the five-member bloc in the past, including last year's hosted by Russia and attended by PM Narendra Modi. However, spokesperson Wang Wenbin did not specify whether Xi would attend the summit expected later this year.

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3) China Returns as Top India Trade Partner Even as Relations Sour

· China regained its position as India's top trade partner in 2020, as India's reliance on imported machines outweighed its efforts to curb commerce with Beijing. Two-way trade between the economic and strategic rivals stood at $77.7 billion last year, according to provisional data from India's Commerce Ministry.

· Total imports from China stood at $58.7 billion, more than India's combined purchases from the US and the UAE (second and third-largest trade partners)

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