In geopolitical scenario, one line is always quoted- “there are no permanent enemies, and no permanent friends, only permanent interests.” Once again, this has been proven true and it will have a long-lasting effect.
France has accused Australia of backstabbing. Recently the foreign minister of France Jean-Yves Le Drian told France Info radio- “I’m very angry today, and bitter…this is not something allies do to each other. It’s really a stab in the back. We had established a relationship of trust with Australia, this trust has been betrayed.”
What actually happened between France and Australia?
Two weeks ago, the Australian defence and foreign ministers had reconfirmed to Paris, the 2016 deal, with French shipbuilder Naval Group to replace Australia’s more than two-decades-old Collins submarines. French President Emmanuel Macron also lauded decades of future cooperation when hosting Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in June. Australian Navy’s 6 Collins-class submarines were being replaced by 2036 with the 12 submarines. Currently Australia has only 6 submarines namely- Collins, Famcomb,Waller, Dechaineux, Sheean, Rankin, out of which 5 are more than 20 years old now.
Now recently, an agreement “AUKUS” among US,UK and Australia has been signed. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed on Thursday, that the country has scrapped a 90 billion AUD (USD 66 billion) submarine deal with France, instead building nuclear-powered submarines using US and British technology. Signaling a sharper security focus against China, the leaders of Australia, the UK, and the US jointly announced a deeper security alliance on transferring advanced technologies, including that of nuclear-powered submarines.
What did Australia say about “AUKUS”?
According to Australian media statement- “The security challenges in the Indo-Pacific region have grown significantly. Military modernization is occurring at an unprecedented rate and capabilities are rapidly advancing and their reach expanding. The technological edge enjoyed by Australia and our partners are narrowing. The decision we have made to not continue with the Attack Class submarine and to go down this path is not a change of mind, it’s a change of need,” it said.
Australia has stated that they needed a nuclear powered submarine to deal effectively with the expansion of Chinese Naval power and China’s bullying to Australia, so more powerful submarines are needed. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said- “nuclear-powered submarines are not just a want, but a need: they are faster, stronger and stealthier, exactly what Australia needs to protect both its interest and its people”. And though he understands the disappointment of the French government is feeling, but he has raised capability concerns with France in recent months.
In this case, the diplomacy could have been better because France also has a nuclear variant of the vessel which Australia was purchasing.
What is China’s reaction?
China knows that this all is being done to prevent Chinese dominance in the Indian Ocean. China has targeted US and blamed that this deal will intensify arms race and deteriorate non-proliferation efforts. China has said- “It’s highly irresponsible and shows double standards on using nuclear export for geopolitical games”.
Scenario in France-
French Shipbuilder Naval Group, a private company in which French government holds 62.49% stakes is major defense contractor of France. It has been making loss since few years. Now, after cancellation of 66 billion USD deal, the burden is expected to increase. France spent millions of dollars in demonstration of submarines in Australia; all that money has gone in vain now. French government has to help the company with grant of 8-10 billion USD approximately.
Recently French deal with Switzerland to sell Dassault’s Rafale was replaced by US-made Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter. France suspended military cooperation deal with Ethiopia too; due to Ethiopia’s bombing in Tigray region. Also, 2022 will be the election year in France, so it is a negative build-up of Macron’s image that he could not make a good defense deal. Also, French involvement in QUAD group has become difficult. At the time, when UK has sour memories of Brexit and US has been tagged "unreliable" by EU, this is not good for geopolitical scenerio. It might spoil many relations.
What will be the impact on India?
India is a close ally of France. In September 2016, Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) was done for 36 Rafale multi role fighter jets in fly-away condition. India has chosen Dassault over its traditional partner Rissia’s MiG. Since then, both countries grew closer day by day. During the 34th India-France strategic dialogue, France offered to shift 100 percent assembly line for Panther medium utility helicopters as well as 70 percent of the assembly line for Rafale fighters under “Make in India” initiative with full transfer of technology in India. Indian government is also planning to buy the Airbus’ AS565 MBe, an all-weather, multi-role medium helicopter, designed for the operation from ship decks, offshore locations and land-based sites. India is also interested in taking 6 Airbus 330 multi-role transport tanks on lease while making it clear that French defence technologies shared with Indian Military should not be given to its adversaries. So France shall no longer supply, upgrade or repair French weapon platforms or ammunition of Pakistan or Turkey. Paris has invited Indian Navy to participate in European Maritime Awareness in the Straits of Hormuz (EMSOH) as well as facilitate at the French base in Djibouti. It has offered help in developing engine for twin engine Light Combat Aircraft with DRDO as well as making Rafale fighter engines (M-88) under “Make in India” initiative. Also French company is cooperating with India in 9900 MW Jaitapur nuclear power plant.
Now, after France’s loss of 66 billion USD, India will play the role of the biggest strategic partner to France.