India is making full use of the opportunity that has landed on its lap. France is currently infuriated with the United States and Australia, following the announcement of a strategic alliance between the US, UK and Australia, called AUKUS. As part of the AUKUS initiative, Australia will be provided with nuclear submarines, and Washington will also share its submarine nuclear propulsion technology with the down under country. However, France is not a tad bit happy with Australia and the US, and has termed the AUKUS initiative a grave betrayal and something which should not have happened among allies and partners. It has also gone on to suggest that the AUKUS initiative will have a profound impact on its participation at NATO.
Here’s what happened. Australia was supposed to procure several diesel-powered submarines from France as a part of a multibillion-dollar deal which has been in the works for years now. France claims it was blindsided by the US and Australia. The French Foreign Minister called the deal a “unilateral, brutal and unpredictable decision”. While speaking to radio station Franceinfo, Le Drian said that it was a “stab in the back” and added that France had established a relationship of trust with Australia, and it has now been “betrayed”.
France’s relationship with the United States has been bruised like never before. In fact, it has even recalled its ambassadors from Washington and Canberra, in what comes as an unprecedented move best epitomizing Paris’ fury with the AUKUS initiative and the undermining of its role in the Indo-Pacific.
India Now Playing its Hand
India has swooped in to strengthen its partnership with France, in the backdrop of Paris getting disenchanted with the US. On Saturday, Foreign Minister Dr S Jaishankar spoke with his French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian and reaffirmed India’s commitment to France. Jaishankar and Le Drian agreed to deepen their strategic partnership, “based on a relationship of political trust between two great sovereign nations of the Indo-Pacific”.
Discussed recent developments in the Indo-Pacific and Afghanistan with my friend FM @JY_LeDrian .Looking forward to our New York meeting.
— Dr. S. Jaishankar (@DrSJaishankar) September 18, 2021
The two ministers agreed to meet in New York this week, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, to work “on a common programme of concrete actions to defend together a truly multilateral international order”.
The timing of the call between the two foreign ministers is crucial. India has stepped in to assure France that it is standing right beside it, even while other countries, and its oldest and most trusted partners have ‘betrayed’ it. France is India’s strategic partner. France is a major defence exporter, and has really helped India for many years now. While India’s partnership with Russia and the Untied States usually steals all the limelight, it is France which has actually delivered India with the best of friendship in strategic terms. Now, India is returning the favour.
India Set to Buy More Mirage-2000 Fighter Jets
According to the Hindustan Times, the Indian Air Force (IAF) is set to acquire 24 second-hand Mirage 2000 fighters, made by Dassault Aviation, in an attempt to strengthen its ageing fleet of the fourth-generation fighters and also secure parts for its two existing squadrons of the aircraft. India announcing a new deal with France at a time when Paris has just lost on a multibillion-dollar submarine deal with Australia really shows how New Delhi is trying to help Paris in its time of need.
India is also sending a message to the United States. India, although Australia claims it was informed well ahead about the AUKUS announcement, would have ideally wanted for QUAD to not be diluted in such a manner by Joe Biden. The UK could have been brought into the Quad, along with France. With such additions, Quad would become an even more formidable force of the Indo-Pacific, and an anchor against all devious Chinese designs in the region. Japan would have also wanted the same. Joe Biden should have had the farsightedness to create a Quad+ initiative, instead of compartmentalizing its anti-China allies into various groupings.
In a way, India is also making its displeasure known to the US by enhancing cooperation with France. One should not be entirely surprised if India, France and Japan come together and set up a new anti-China grouping for the Indo-Pacific in the near future.
Indian diplomacy has come a long way. France, on its part, will remember India as a country which stood by it at a time when its other allies ditched it. This will become the bedrock of a formidable Indo-French relationship being formed soon.