Claude Arpi | Increase the pressure on Xi; bring France in Quad

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For five months now, Indian and Chinese troops have clashed in the high Himalayas; in all likelihood, the stalemate will continue through the coming cold winter months in Ladakh.This has consequences on several levels, not just militarily.

The first: what did President Xi Jinping achieve by trying to advance a few hundred meters in Galwan, Gogra or Pangong Tso?

Different motives have been attributed to Chinese chess movements.

To name a few, Beijing wanted to stop the Darbuk-Shyok-DBO road, protect China’s projects in Gilgit Baltistan (and the Chinese-occupied Shaksgam Valley); gain strategic advantages in the field; enhance the prestige of President Xi; to strengthen the reputation of the People’s Liberation Army; humiliate an arrogant competitor (India) in times of weakness; it was even said that General Zhao Zongqi, head of the Western Theater Command, thought he would get a seat in the powerful Central Military Commission after Ladakh.

China is the loser today: infrastructure development will continue, India will not give up its legitimate claims on Gilgit-Baktistan, etc.

In addition, Tibet, Taiwan, Hong Kong or Xinjiang could be debated in the not too distant future, and the “one China” policy could be called into question in many quarters.

This did not stop Zhao Lijian, the spokesperson for the “Wolf Warrior” of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, from continuing his anti-Indian tirades: “China does not recognize the so-called ‘Central Territory of Ladakh’ and ‘Arunachal Pradesh’ illegally established by India, and opposes the development of infrastructure construction in conflict border areas for the purpose of military control. ”

The diplomat cheekily added, “Neither side should take any measures in the border area that would complicate the situation in order to avoid harming the efforts of both sides to improve the situation.” It was the day Beijing announced a new strategic route to Metok, north of the McMahon Line.

According to a Chinese television report, the Pai-Metok Expressway will be completed by the end of September 2022: “Once completed, the length of the road from Nyingchi town to Metok county [North of Upper Siang of Arunachal Pradesh] through Bomi County will be shortened from 346 km to 180 km, and driving time will be reduced from 11 hours to 4.5 hours. ”

At the same time, the world is quickly realizing the constant double weight of Chinese propaganda and is taking action to counter Beijing’s moves for the first time.

Take the example of France. In the past, Paris was often reluctant to offend China because it “did business” with Beijing. But things are changing; Aware of the danger of Chinese hegemony for the planet, French President Emmanuel Macron recently appointed Christophe Penot, his ambassador to Australia, to the new post of Ambassador of the Indo-Pacific.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported, “The coronavirus has catalyzed European concern over the Chinese government’s actions in Hong Kong, the treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang, military incursions into the South China Sea and political interference. “In June, Mr. Penot had already warned that international standards were increasingly called into question, adding that the current Covid crisis was likely to accelerate the process:” France and Australia have a special responsibility here to ensure that the post-Covid world does not get worse and, if possible, that it becomes better than the world before. ”

The Australian newspaper commented: “France is the last European power to change its vision of China and the region. In September, Germany, Europe’s largest economy, which has long enjoyed close ties with Beijing, released its first Indo-Pacific strategy focused on increasing diplomatic pressure on China.

France by quad?

A few years ago, I asked an Indian observer why France was not included as a Quad participant. “Nobody thought about it,” he told me. This changed after President Macron’s visit to India in March 2018. Addressing a French rally in New Delhi, the young president reminded his compatriots: “France is a power in the Indian and Pacific oceans; we are present in Reunion, we are also there in French Polynesia and New Caledonia. And we are a maritime power, it is often forgotten, but France is the second maritime power in the world. We have a strong navy, we have nuclear submarines equipped like few other powers in the world; a maritime surveillance capability thanks to our own satellites and technologies; it is obvious that we are a military and intelligence power that ranks us among the first nations of the world.

France is ready to work with India on the oceans.

A few months earlier, C. Raja Mohan and Darshana Baruah had written for Carnagie India about the deepening of the India-France maritime partnership: “As maritime security takes on greater importance in India’s foreign policy, New Delhi is increasingly seeking to leverage its strategic partnerships, in particular with Paris. Although India and France have joined forces on a number of issues since 1998, regional cooperation in the Indo-Pacific has never been at the top of the agenda. However, that may be about to change. ”

After the Quad’s last meeting in Tokyo last week, U.S. spokesman Cale Brown said foreign ministers from the United States, Japan, Australia and India reaffirmed their collective efforts in in favor of a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific: “they are committed to continuing consultations to implement their vision of a peaceful, secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific”.

US Assistant Secretary of State Stephen Biegun explained more recently, “The Quad is a partnership driven by shared interests, not binding obligations, and is not intended to be an exclusive grouping. Any country that is looking for a free and open Indo-Pacific and is ready to take action to ensure it should be welcome to work with us. ”

It seems that the vision of Paris could perfectly fit into this pattern. So why can’t France join the four founding nations?

Emmanuel Lenain, French Ambassador to India, answered the question in an interview with India Today: “The Indo-Pacific is a priority. The two leaders [Modi and Macron] have worked there for at least four or five years. It’s about values. We want an open and transparent Indo-Pacific. Now what would be the framework. I don’t think anything is exclusive… All like-minded countries should work together towards an open and transparent Indo-Pacific.

It sounds like the definition of the US Secretary of State.

Whether France joins or not, there is no doubt that all of these new collaborative efforts must be attributed to President Xi and his reckless foreign policy. Another “loss” in its balance sheet.

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