In Pic: France territories across the world.
The Australian newspaper commented: “France is the last European power to change its vision of China and the region. In September, Germany, Europe’s largest economy, which has long enjoyed close ties with Beijing, released its first Indo-Pacific strategy focused on increasing diplomatic pressure on China.”
A couple of years ago, I had asked an Indian observer why France was not included as a participant in the Quad. “Nobody thought of it”, he had told me. This has changed after President Macron’s visit to India in March 2018.
Addressing a French gathering in New Delhi, the young President Macron reminded his countrymen: “France is a power of the Indian and Pacific Oceans; we are present at Reunion, we are also there in French Polynesia and New Caledonia. And we are a maritime power, it is often forgotten but France is the second maritime power in the world. We have a strong navy, we have nuclear submarines equipped like few other powers in the world; a maritime surveillance capability through our own satellites and technologies; it is obvious we are a military and intelligence power ranking us among the first nations in the world.”
France is ready to work with India on the oceans.
A few months earlier, C. Raja Mohan and Darshana Baruah had written for Carnagie India about Deepening the India-France Maritime Partnership: “As maritime security acquires greater salience in India’s foreign policy, New Delhi is increasingly looking to leverage its strategic partnerships, particularly with Paris. Although India and France have joined forces on a number of issues since 1998, regional cooperation in the Indo-Pacific has never risen to the top of the agenda. However, this may be about to change.”
After the Quad’s last meeting in Tokyo last week, US spokesperson Cale Brown said the foreign ministers of the US, Japan, Australia and India had reaffirmed their collective efforts towards a free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific: “they pledged to continue regular consultations to implement their vision of a peaceful, secure, and prosperous Indo-Pacific”.
US deputy secretary of state Stephen Biegun more recently explained: “The Quad is a partnership driven by shared interests, not binding obligations, and is not intended to be an exclusive grouping. Any country that seeks a free and open Indo-Pacific and is willing to take steps to ensure that should be welcome to work with us.”
It seems that Paris’ vision could perfectly fit into this scheme. So why can’t France join the four founding nations?
Emmanuel Lenain, French ambassador to India, answered the question in an interview with India Today: “Indo-Pacific is a priority. Both the leaders [Modi and Macron] have been working on that at least for the past four or five years. It is about values. We want an open, transparent Indo-Pacific. Now, what would be the framework. I don’t think anything is exclusive… All like-minded countries should join efforts towards an open, transparent Indo-Pacific.”
It sounds like the US secretary of state’s definition.
Whether France joins or not, there is no doubt all these new collaborative efforts should be credited to President Xi and his reckless foreign policies. One more “loss” in his balance sheet
Writes Claude Arpi for Deccan Chronical
Edited by Shantanu K. Bansal