UK-France and Australia-India Summits: Two Continents, One Direction

On March 10th, the UK and France held their first summit in Paris after five years. Simultaneously, Australia and India carry outs their first (expected annual) summit in New Delhi. Although the two events occur on two different continents, the joint statements after the two events show that the leaders of all four countries are more focused on the Indo-Pacific.

1/ Despite the war in Ukraine, both statements emphasize the Indo-Pacific’s strategic position globally. British Prime Minister Sunak also affirmed that the security of Europe and the Indo-Pacific is "intertwined", showing the trend of regional connectivity is increasingly strong.

2/ The two statements uphold the role of ASEAN and the Pacific Island Forum (PIF), while these organizations are facing numerous internal challenges (ASEAN has Myanmar crisis, PIF is facing the risk of internal rifts)

3/ The two stress the importance of the freedom of navigation, in the spirit of UNCLOS.

However, there are also differences:

1/Australia-India’s joint statement devote a separate section on the South China Sea and COC, affirming Australia and India’s support for an effective and substantial COC, in accordance with existing regional architecture. Though UK-France’s joint statement also mentions freedom of navigation and regional’s hotspots such as Taiwan, the South China Sea is surprisingly “skipped”. This is rather odd considering that both the UK and France have not shied away from making statements about the South China Sea in recent years.

2/ UK-France’s document has a section “criticizing” China (urging China not to supporting Russia in the Ukraine issue, reaffirming the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, expressing concerns on human rights issues in Hong Hong, Xinjiang, and Tibet, etc.) France and the UK also say they will “coordinate on their concerns regarding China’s challenge to the rules-based international order”. On the other hand, Australia-India’s joint statement did not mention China even once.

3/ UK - France’s joint statement stresses their presence plan through regularly deploying aircraft carriers in Indo-Pacific. This would be considered a big step if the plan is successfully implemented as: (i) Prior to this, British and French ships were not regularly present in the region; (ii) The UK and France have not cooperated on dispatching aircraft carriers in the region. In contrast, Australia - India’s joint statement focus more on cooperation in diplomacy and non-military aspects, including in intiatives and platforms such as IPOI, IPEF, SCRI, Quad/IPMDA, CDRI, or IORA, etc.

The post was originally published here.

Translated by: Nguyen Tien Dat

Revised by: HD, Viet Ha