Foreign Policy Watch: India – EU

EU, India and the Indo-Pacific

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : EU

Mains level : Paper 2- EU Indo-Pacific strategy

Context

Last month, the EU released it “EU strategy for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific”. This document is very rich and needs to be analysed in the context of the rapprochement between the EU and India, which culminated in the June EU-India summit, a “turning point” according to some analysts.

Important takeaways from EU’s Indo-Pacific strategy

  • The EU strategy in the Indo-Pacific appears to be over-determined by China’s expansionism.
  • “The display of force and increasing tensions in regional hotspots such as in the South and East China Sea and in the Taiwan Strait may have a direct impact on European security and prosperity,” the document says.
  • If security interests are highlighted in the beginning, they are rather low in the list of the objectives of the EU Indo-Pacific strategy, which are listed as: “Sustainable and inclusive prosperity; green transition; ocean governance; digital governance and partnerships; connectivity; security and defence; human security”.
  • Many paragraphs of the document are dedicated to values, including human rights.

India does not figure prominently in the policy document

  • In terms of partnerships, India does not figure very prominently.
  • By contrast, ASEAN is presented as “an increasingly important partner for the EU”.
  • However, India appears in the list of the countries which already have an Indo-Pacific strategy and with which the EU is interested in a deeper “engagement”, a list made of ASEAN, Australia, India, Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, the UK and US.
  • However, the document does not mention the role India could play in value-chain diversification, a top priority of the EU since the Covid-19 pandemic in particular.
  • Yet, India is mentioned few pages later in a similar perspective when it is said that the EU will help “low and middle-income Indo-Pacific partners to secure access to the Covid-19 vaccine through the Covax facility and through other means”.
  • What the French see as India’s main asset, its strategic dimension, is not central in the EU document.
  •  India is listed as the EU’s first partner only in one area: “under the project Enhancing Security Cooperation in and with Asia (ESIWA), which covers counter-terrorism, cybersecurity, maritime security and crisis management.
  • The pilot partners are India, Indonesia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Singapore and Vietnam, with EU military experts already operating in Indonesia and in Vietnam.”

Understanding the German influence on the policy document

  • Thus, the EU strategy for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific is more in tune with the German vision of the Indo-Pacific than with the French one.
  • The fact that the German approach prevails in the EU document is a reflection of the influence of Berlin’s weltanschauung (worldview) in Europe — something Brexit has accentuated, Great Britain’s Indo-Pacific strategy being similar to France’s.
  • But China’s attitude may force Germany — and the EU — to change their mind in the near future.

Conclusion

By and large, the Indo-Pacific strategy of the EU remains driven by economic considerations and India, whose main asset is geopolitical and even geostrategic, does not figure prominently in it.

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