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Here's why France says Australia and US "stabbed" it in the back

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While PM Morrison has said France is a “good partner” and that the new deal (with the US and the UK) was motivated by “a changed strategic environment”, the turn of events hasn't gone down well with the French. France is not just irked with Australia but with the US as well.

Here's why France says Australia and US "stabbed" it in the back
France is furious after Australia scrapped their nuclear submarine contract and inked a new pact with the United States and the United Kingdom (the AUKUS deal).
“It was a stab in the back. We built a relationship of trust with Australia, and this trust was betrayed and I’m angry today, with a lot of bitterness, about this breach,” Jean-Yves Le Drian, France’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, said in a recent radio interview.


Turn of events
In 2016, Australia signed an agreement with the French shipbuilder Naval Group to receive new nuclear-powered submarines at a cost of $40 billion. Just a couple of weeks ago, the Australian defence and foreign ministers had reconfirmed the deal to France.
French President Emmanuel Macron had in June lauded decades of future cooperation while hosting Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
However, the Australian government has now decided to junk the agreement. The country is building these submarines "in close cooperation with the UK and the US" in Adelaide.
Prime Minister Morrison tweeted, “We intend to build these submarines in Adelaide in close cooperation with the UK and the US. But let me be clear, Australia is not seeking to acquire nuclear weapons.”
While US Secretary of State Antony Blinken claimed officials had been in touch with their French counterparts to discuss the new deal even before its official announcement, France has maintained Americans didn't inform them until they saw media reports about the deal and reached out to their US counterparts with questions.
The aftermath
While PM Morrison has said France is a “good partner” and that the new deal (with the US and the UK) was motivated by “a changed strategic environment”, the turn of events hasn't gone down well with the French. France is not just irked with Australia but with the US as well.
The French Embassy in Washington has cancelled a gala — “240th Anniversary of the Battle of the Capes” — at their sprawling compound over "frustration with the new trilateral partnership".
Jean-Yves Le Drian said, this “unilateral and unpredictable decision” reminded him of what former President Donald Trump used to do.
“The American choice which leads to the removal of an ally and a European partner like France from structuring a partnership with Australia, at a time when we are facing unprecedented challenges in the Indo-Pacific region … marks an absence of coherence that France can only observe and regret,” read an official statement on Thursday.
Pacifying France
While signing the new deal with Australia, US President Joe Biden, in an apparent reference to France, said the European nation will remain a key partner in the Indo-Pacific region.
“As the president (Biden) said and I want to emphasise again, we cooperate incredibly closely with France on many shared priorities in the Indo-Pacific but also around the world,” US Secretary Blinken said.
He added, “We place fundamental value on that relationship, on that partnership and we will carry forward in the days ahead.”
Echoing a similar sentiment, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the relationship with France is “rock solid”.
The developments come at a time when France's ties with Britain were already strained over Brexit. As for the US, French diplomats have said Biden is not being forthright with his European allies, a Reuters report said.
Why is the deal significant?
Through this submarine deal, Australia wishes to counter the Chinese threat in the contested South China Sea. Recently, Beijing said the United States, Australia, and the UK were “severely damaging regional peace and stability.”
However, the US has rejected the criticism. “We do not seek conflict with China... In our view, it’s about security in the Indo-Pacific,” said White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
What does this mean for India? 
While some may fear AUKUS deal can push the existing Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD, or the Quad) out of geopolitical importance, such projections may be unfounded.
The Quad, comprised of the US, Australia, Japan and India, was recently revived in 2017 over growing Chinese aggression in the South China Sea.
With the AUKUS deal primarily intended to counterweight the Chinese influence in the very same region, the new deal only bolsters the Quad -- and thus India -- by adding the UK to the growing Cold War of the region.
Australia's entry into the nuclear submarine club, along with added geopolitical backing from the UK, another nuclear superpower, into the geopolitics of the region will present more of a growing counter to Chinese resurgence in the East.


 
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