While the Head of State must present a new roadmap for the overseas territories within the framework of the future military programming law, a Senate report, approved on Wednesday January 25, that The world was able to consult, provides a critical overview of French policy in the Indo-Pacific. In a context of growing tensions in the region, in particular pressure from China on a number of exclusive economic zones (EEZ), the French strategy lacks “readability”, worry senators Cédric Perrin (Les Républicains) and Rachid Temal (Socialist Party), who conducted their work during the year 2022.
According to the French definition, the Indo-Pacific goes from French Polynesia to Reunion, from New Caledonia to the coasts of East Africa. France has 1.6 million citizens there, spread over seven regions, departments and communities. To these territories must be added 11 million square kilometers of EEZ, the second largest maritime area of this type in the world after that of the United States. However, if the overall military presence in this space reaches some 8,000 men, these troops are very fragmented, and piloted by five different command areas, detail the senators.
In addition, these personnel include 1,500 soldiers based in Djibouti, 650 in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and occasionally 700 sailors on mission. Only the rest of the workforce is therefore formally located between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific: 2,000 between Reunion and Mayotte, 1,600 in New Caledonia and 1,200 in French Polynesia. This scattering should be reorganized to better target efforts, say the senators, who make a number of proposals, including new zoning to “better integrate the South Pacific, Taiwan and Latin America”.
Limited transport and surveillance capabilities
Apart from Djibouti and the UAE, which have permanent fighter planes and serve as a regular stopover for the navy, the other French establishments in the Indo-Pacific only have three to five surface ships each, two to five surveillance, and two to four helicopters. However, most of these means are aging and limited in the face of such distances. “It thus happens that the forces cannot be present when major powers of the Indo-Pacific inform them of the passage of ships in the French EEZ, or that they are not able to respond to several concomitant emergencies”illustrate the senators.
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