Avec deux autres membres d'AGS, Olivier Kempf (EGEA) et Yannick Harrel (Cyberstrategie Est Ouest) j'ai eu l'occasion d'échanger avec le journaliste indien Sumantra Maitra, basé à Mumbai, autour de la "résurgence de la France". Un article publié sur son blog, Daily World Watch, et qui touche au moins autant à la politique intérieure (et la personnalité de notre président) qu'aux affaires étrangères.
The century, right from the start of it, was written in blood. Starting with the 9/11 World Trade Center terrorist attacks, and the Famous French newspaper declaration of “Today we are all Americans…”, the decade wrote a future of a whole generation, and forged the World, with the greatest clash of ideologies since cold war. The clash between “free spirit” and “state-community-religious dominance”. Some thinkers are even saying that this is the historic turn back to “Laissez Faire”, a revival of freedom, the way classical age philosophers defined.
Moving back to the modern proverbial “cold cruel” world, the thing that however got the attention of many was the resurgence of FRANCE. Often termed as Colonial Hangover by some cynical press, no one can deny, that the name of only one nation was in the middle of every major international crisis, starting from Afghanistan, to not being in Iraq, to mediating in between Russia and Georgia, to Libya and Ivory Coast. One man, Nicolas Sarkozy, made headlines, with declaring that he himself was physically and actively present during the Berlin Wall collapse, to sitting in front of Taj Mahal and dissing Pakistan during Joint-Statement, in one of the most scathing attacks ever by any modern era Head of the States during their visit to India.
1. World is seeing a resurgence of French International Relations. Right from joining NATO actively, to brokering a truce between Russia and Georgia, to active military muscle flexing in Libya and Ivory Coast. New found confidence, sudden realization of real politik or economic invincibility in European Union?
Kempf : France is used to act as a power, which may surprise from a European point of view. A kind of disinhibiting that contrasts with other pruderies…. What’s new is the acceptance of “national” action, out of “entangling alliances” (G. Washington), both in NATO and EU.
Harrel : The French political system is especially presidential. It is depending enormously on the personality of the President. However France never left the foreign policy arena : it used more its soft power than its hard power formerly. In 2003 for example, France refused to engage in Iraq: its influence on the international affairs was important but of another nature. Strong activity is not synonymous with great effectiveness. It is true however that because of its universalism mentality, France cannot adopt an isolationist position on the most important international matters.
2. World opinion of Sarkozy varies from an eccentric emotional lover boy, to a man who is very practical and shrewd, to a patriot who wants French dominance in World affairs back, even with a streak of dictatorship, to a man who is running after personal glory and immortality, and a place in history. Which one is true…or is it everything together?
Kempf : He is a pragmatic, which is a surprise, when you compare to the image foreigners have of French character, usually considered as theoretical, ideologist…But here, Sarkozy is mirroring French character, much more globalized than believed…
Harrel : It is too early to conclude yet : on the international scene, it takes years to establish an assessment of the conducted actions. A fact is however undeniable: universalism leads the French President and his foreign ministers to be attentive and active. The selected manners and options are not always the good ones but the current President is the fruit of this political practice.
JGP : From a purely French domestic perspective it is quite to answer as we lack hindsight, being engulfed in the politicking game, one year before the Presidential election. One may say that, like all first-rank politicians with a big ego, Sarkozy’s main objective is to get elected and leave a trace in History. Some observers in France think he has, with his manners, desecrated the presidential function. Anyway, speaking of dictatorship may be excessive, even though there is an authoritarian trend in many European countries.
3. Burqa Ban…good, bad, ugly? Necessary, irrelevant, baseless? Cultural jingoism, Liberty equality fraternity, Islamophobia?
Kempf : No. Essence of the French national balance, made of secularity. French passion is not freedom, but equality. Showing one’s face is the signal of that equality.
Harrel : It is a domestic policy very related on its history and the constitution of the Republic. “Laicité” is one of the main republican principles which is very specific to France. It is a very contemporary debate to know if this principle must evolve or if it must remain frozen. However and as in 1905 (date of the first law of “laicité”), this debate has also repercussions in the international environment : the French authorities cannot be unaware of this reality but they must firstly decide what is best in the interest of the social peace.
4. We have seen French reservation on NATO. France have always advocated democratic values, but we see a little different behavior in regard to different Middle Eastern countries…is that going to be self defeating in the long run?
Kempf : I don’t understand what you mean by mentioning the link between French reservation to NATO, and the advocacy for democratic values… As regards the intervention in Libya, that’s a bet for future.
5. What should be French position regarding Israel and Russia? How is the newly assertive France looking forward to engage the two most contentious foreign policy issues that have dogged her in the recent times?
Kempf : With Israel, believe in French pragmatism. With Russia, a shared interest.
Harrel : Only one word: pragmatism. France was always very concerned by the questions of the Mediterranean world, it is logical consequently that each country of this geographical zone is not indifferent for it. Russia is a historical partner of France: the negotiations are not always obvious but often the shared interests make it possible to overcome the differences.
JGP : In both cases France and Europe must seize the opportunity to play a go-between role: while the US have always been our natural ally and partner, their position, especially in the Middle-East, is not totally aligned with our own interests that could benefit from a more assertive involvement.
6. Finally, France and India share historic relations. Its one of the most successful defence partner of India, and is commonly known as democratic sisters. France was the only country who didn’t sanction India after Nuclear tests, and even supported India in relation to Pakistan. We see the “deal of the century” 126 fighter jets, which can change the geo-strategic balance of the South Asia, might also go to Rafale, which is in the last stage…how significant is that on a strategic and global aspect?
Kempf : There was a long French neglect towards India, since the decolonization. The French dream of Asia was incarnated in Indochina, with the well-known output it results in: from that time, France abandoned its fascination to Asia. It’s coming back by the last ten years, with a new fascination to China. However, France should bet on India, who is a better challenger, used to look for a “third way” since decades: between US and USSR yesterday, between US and China today. Capitalizing on that shared interest would be a good idea for both parties.
Harrel : France cannot be unaware of India, both for major economic opportunities as for historical relations. This “deal of the century” would be especially an excellent opportunity so that French and Indians learn with better knowing and appreciate each other. The economic exchanges must especially be reinforced by political, military and cultural exchanges at the highest level. This geopolitical prospect is filling with enthusiasm because realistic for the two States. France does not have any dispute with India, and India could count on France to have a serious support within the European Union and the United Nations.
Billet cross-posté sur Daily World Watch
Sumantra Maitra sur Twitter