Perfect timing is important for everything. Be it cricket, comedy, cooking or diplomacy, perfect timing seals the deal. Indian diplomacy under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has come a long way over the years, evident everywhere — whether it is slamming China in the SCO meet or Indian External Affairs Minister S JaiShankar’s visit to Ukraine amidst Russia’s Pakistan love or talks between the foreign minister and his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian just after the AUKUS episode. Continuing with this “one shot, two kills” theory, India has again displayed perfect timing in starting communication with the France government and made the news of a defence deal public.
The timing of the deal has got more significance than the deal itself. Now ‘backstabbed’ France openly wants to work with India to promote a “truly multilateral order”.
Time is an illusion, timing is an artStefan Emunds
Insulted France, opportunistic United States and a friendly India towards France — Prime Minister Modi is making sure that France realises who its real friends in the world are. The conversation between the two foreign ministers came a day after France recalled its ambassadors to the United States and Australia in protest against the snatching of a 90 billion dollar deal to build 12 conventional submarines for Australia by the US. France is also upset over its exclusion from the alliance. India is yet to react to the formation of the trilateral security partnership. Jaishankar reaffirmed India’s commitment to France. Ledrian and he agreed to deepen the strategic partnership between the two countries based on political trust, as the two ministers agreed to meet in New York this week on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meeting to work on a common programme of concrete actions to defend a truly multilateral international order.
Now, that the US has ditched Paris, India is emerging as France’s most trusted partner. This will have many repercussions for the global order, none of which are good for Washington, DC. France has gone on to suggest that the AUKUS initiative will have a profound impact on France’s participation at NATO.
France is India’s strategic partner. It is a major defence exporter that has cooperated with India for many years. While India’s partnership with Russia and the US usually steals the limelight, it is France that has delivered India with actual friendship in strategic terms. Now India is returning the favour.
The Indian Air Force is set to acquire 24 second-hand Mirage 2000 fighters made by Dassault Aviation in an attempt to strengthen its ageing fleet of 4th generation fighters and also secure parts for its two existing squadrons of the aircraft. India announced a new deal with France at a time when Paris lost a multi-billion dollar submarine deal with Australia, which demonstrates how New Delhi is trying to help Paris in its time of need.
India is sending a message to the US that President Joe Biden should have had the foresight to create a Quad+ initiative instead of compartmentalising its anti-China allies into various groupings. Biden should not have diluted the Quad in such a manner. France could have been brought into the Quad along with the United Kingdom. With such additions, the Quad would have become an even more formidable force in the Indo-Pacific and an anchor against all-devious Chinese designs in the region. Japan would have wanted the same.
The two-word phrase used by France “truly multilateralism” has a deeper message also for the US. There are a few “truly” multilateral organisations like the United Nations or the World Trade Organisation. But any multilateral group of nations headed by the US is not “truly” multilateral. The US does not support multilateralism as this would harm their image of being the superpower. If they were to support multilateralism, every small, not-so-powerful nation also will have a say in world politics, which is not acceptable to the US. Biden had cleverly framed the US return to multilateralism as a foreign policy for the American middle class during his election campaign. But now, Biden has made it clear that he supports multilateralism in only two dimensions — climate change and democracy — whereas in other dimensions like trade, economy, defence agreement, military tie-ups etc, the US seem to look towards a small group, commonly referred to as the “Anglosphere”.
Nigel Farage, the leader of the Brexit Party and former leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party, said, “The Anglosphere is back they hate it!” He even said that “this is the Anglosphere coming together with a 21st-century solution”. He mocked French President Emmanuel Macron by saying, “(He is) throwing toys out of the pram” over a deal to supply Australia with nuclear-powered submarines.
In this scenario, it is quite obvious that this is going to have a long term effect on US-France relations. India and France have already made multilateral organisations like the ‘International Solar Alliance’, an alliance of 124 countries initiated by India. The US has never shown any interest in joining the alliance. They are interested only in organisations that are headed by the US or the UK and have headquarters stationed in the US or the UK.
The world order is changing and it’s changing very fast. In a way, India is making its displeasure visible to the US by enhancing cooperation with France. One should not be entirely surprised if India, France, Israel, Vietnam and Japan come together and set up a new anti-China grouping for the indo-pacific in foreseeable future.