In the Indo-Pacific region, the time has come for minilateralism, with flexible coalitions of small groups of countries, assembled according to shared interests and areas of influence. This logic supports the Paris-Delhi-Canberra axis, which President Emmanuel Macron had described as“Absolutely key for the region and our common objectives in the Indo-Pacific zone”, during his visit to Australia in 2018. Facing the challenge “Hegemonic” Chinese, France calls “A real new geostrategic order”.
The term “axis” was however quickly abandoned, France now ensuring to appear “Inclusive” – as underlined by the documents published in 2018 and 2019 by the ministries of foreign affairs and defense on the Indo-Pacific – by cooperating with Malaysia, Vietnam, Japan … Tokyo and Paris have thus passed, in 2016 and 2018, technology transfer and logistical support agreements. On November 4, the Quai d’Orsay appointed an ambassador for the Indo-Pacific, Christophe Penot, ex-ambassador to Australia, one of whose missions will be to make the concept understood by other ministries.
Paris bases its legitimacy on its overseas departments and territories, which bring together 1.6 million citizens and over 90% of the 9 million km² of the French exclusive economic zone (EEZ): Wallis and Futuna, New Caledonia and Polynesia in the Pacific; Réunion and Mayotte in the Indian Ocean.
A position of balance
In this large space, a recalled at the end of October a senior military official, “France can present itself as a neighbor and not as a foreigner, which is particularly important for dialogue with partners”. It promotes a position “Balance” between Washington and Beijing, refusing, as Céline Pajon from the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI) notes, to be formally associated with the Quad, the quadrilateral dialogue established between Japan, India, the United States and Australia. “The emphasis on multipolarity and multilateralism differs from the Trump administration’s more confrontational view of an Indo-Pacific strategy to build anti-China coalitions,” she wrote in a note to appear. France does not support Washington’s attempt to decouple economically from Beijing. And she insists that her Indo-Pacific strategy is not just military. “
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