French President Macron, who is visiting India, held talks with Indian Prime Minister Modi on the 10th. The two sides signed a series of bilateral agreements, including French companies building nuclear power plants, subways, water supply projects in India, and aviation and defense cooperation.
This was originally a normal exchange between the two countries. However, some Indian and Western media have read the message of “confronting China” from the statements of the two countries’ agreements and leaders. For example, India and France are to allow each other access to each other’s naval bases, and it is believed that “this move is aimed at curbing China’s territorial ambitions”. Macron said that “the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean cannot become areas of hegemony”, and some media claimed that “the French President’s remark apparently implied China”, but none of them pointed out how China would be targeted and what kind of threat China posed to France and India.
As for Macron’s claim that the Pacific and Indian Oceans cannot be allowed to become areas of hegemony, it is well-known that the United States is the hegemon of the Pacific, and India is pursuing hegemony in the Indian Ocean. If this is the script, it would be more accurate to say that it applied to the United States and India. Macron also made it clear: “In history, the United Kingdom has been India’s partner in Europe, but I hope that in the 21st century, India’s priority partner in Europe will be France”.
For a long time, “China threat” and “to confront China” have been part of the fixed reporting framework of the Indian media. Whenever third-party leaders visit India or Indian leaders visit a third country, they will find anti-Chinese elements to report. There is no similar analysis in the Chinese media. This reflects the Indian (media’s) lack of confidence in their own national capabilities; on the other hand, it also reflects their serious misunderstanding and distortion of Sino-Indian relations and exaggeration of Sino-French relations.
There is no strategic possibility of France helping India confront China. China and France are both permanent members of the UN Security Council. The relationship between the two countries has global significance. The scale of trade, investment, and personnel exchanges between China and France is far higher than that between India and China. Both China and France have similar positions on evolution of the international order and on climate, trade and many other global issues. France and India are ideologically closer, but this has long ceased to be a major factor in relations between nations. France was the country that earlier expressed its support for India being made a permanent member of the UN Security Council. However, it has not taken any concrete action over the years to promote realization of that goal. There is also no geopolitical competition or confrontation between China in East Asia and France in Western Europe. Specific contradictions (of a case by case nature) between China and France cannot affect the overall situation of strategic partnership between the two countries. France does not share India’s need for confronting China.
Due to the continuous growth of trade with Africa, the Middle East and Europe, the Indian Ocean has become an important channel for Chinese merchant ships. Freedom of navigation and safety in the Indian Ocean is in China’s interests. The Indian Ocean faces mainly non-traditional security threats such as piracy, terrorism, and natural disasters. The United States, India, France, and China alone cannot guarantee the security of the Indian Ocean region; major countries the world over and the coastal countries of the Indian Ocean have to cooperate in this regard. The escort operations and military presence of the Chinese navy in the Indian Ocean have not only protected China’s interests but also provided public security for the international community, without threatening the security of any country.
The Indian Ocean is neither an Indian ocean nor the ocean of the United States and France. It should be a “free and open Indian Ocean.” As for any vicious things that any country attempts to do under (cover of) this beautiful concept, the Indian Ocean littoral countries are bound to resist them, and China too has adequate capacity to deal with them.