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Superpower or not, France supports India

France keeps its firm hold on its own seat in the SC but has been one of the louder P-5 voices calling for SC reform. Addressing the UN General Assembly in September this year, President Jacques Chirac reiterated that the SC must be expanded to include new permanent members.

india Updated: Nov 19, 2003 17:49 IST

That France is not a superpower is no more a point of dispute. The French know it too. So in a recent TV debate on increasing defense budget, those in favour did not argue that the boost would help construct a unified European defense. They talked about the need to preserve la place de la France dans le monde, that is to sustain the importance France has in the world, which is much greater in their mind that it is for real. And, what helps tremendously in this 'mind war' is that precious permanent seat in the Security Council.

France has used its veto power only 18 times and that too usually in conjunction with the USA and UK. Compared to the veto record of USSR/Russia, UK and the USA, this is indeed a small figure.

While the French veto hasn't been exercised since 1989, France has been strident in voicing its opinion during the Iraq predicament and on the debate revolving around SC Reform.



A quick review of the country's past veto experience would show that France has used its veto power only 18 times and that too usually in conjunction with the United States and Britain. Compared to the veto record of USSR/Russia, Britain and the United States, this is indeed a small figure. The two times that it has used the veto on its own were essentially nationalistic in nature. The first time was to secure its interests in Indochina in 1947 and the second time on a dispute between France and the Comoros in 1976.



French veto and Iraqi Predicament

However it is the recent Iraq crisis that has called attention to the incongruous position that France occupies in world politics today. In all likelihood the United States and Britain would not given such consideration to the French viewpoint but for its P-5 status. Using the veto power that it enjoys, France along with Russia and China managed to stall American and British designs to intervene militarily in Iraq for a fair amount of time. Notwithstanding the fact that the Anglo-American alliance went ahead with their plans, France raised enough dust for the two countries to allow for further reflections.Observers have noted that the decline in France's 'real' influence in international politics has coincided with its advocacy for a multilateral world.

Shouting loud for reform

Keeping a firm hold on its own seat in the Security Council, France has been one of the louder P-5 voices calling for SC reform. Addressing the UN General Assembly in September this year, President Jacques Chirac reiterated that the SC must be expanded to include new permanent members because "it is essential to its legitimacy that its [SC] composition reflect the state of the world."

Immediately after this speech, Chirac was quoted in the media saying that India is a 'natural candidate' for a permanent seat and "it is very hard to imagine how one could exclude India from the possibility of having a permanent seat in the Security Council given its characteristics."Earlier too at a meeting between the Foreign Ministers of the two countries in 1999, the French government had seen India "as an essential ingredient" in Security Council expansion. Ironically, the French seat has become significant for India also because commentators like Thomas Friedman of the New York Times have speculated how India is better placed than France to occupy a permanent seat in the SC: "Because India is the world's biggest democracy, the world's largest Hindu nation and the world's second-largest Muslim nation, and, quite frankly, India is just so much more serious than France these days."

(The writeris a Programme Associate with Women in Security, Conflict Management and Peace, FUR, New Delhi)