Foreign Policy Watch: India – EU

Europe as a valuable strategic partner


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: AUKUS

Mains level: Paper 2-Relations with EU


Last week’s in-person summit in Delhi was with the Danish prime minister, Mette Frederiksen.

Europe as a valuable partner

  • Few Asian countries view Europe with strategic suspicion. Many in Asia see Europe as a valuable partner.
  • As the deepening confrontation between the US and China begins to squeeze South East Asia, Europe is widely seen as widening the strategic options for the region.
  • The perspective is similar in Delhi, which now sees Brussels as a critical element in the construction of a multipolar world.
  • Cultivate Europe: As External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar puts it, India’s strategy is to “engage America, manage China, cultivate Europe, reassure Russia, bring Japan into play”.
  • EU’s Strategy for India: The EU outlined a strategy for India in 2018 to focus on four themes — sustainable economic modernisation, promotion of a rules-based order, foreign policy coordination, and security cooperation.
  • At the summit in Portugal in May this year, the EU and India agreed to resume free trade talks and develop a new connectivity partnership that would widen options for the world beyond the Belt and Road Initiative.
  • Rebalancing the international system: Above all, there is a recognition in both Delhi and Brussels that the India-EU strategic partnership is crucial for the rebalancing of the international system amidst the current global flux.

Possibilities with smaller European countries

  • Europe looms so large in the Indian diplomatic agenda today and smaller European states draw unprecedented political attention from Delhi.
  • That Denmark, a country of barely six million people, can establish a significant green partnership with India, is a reminder that smaller countries of Europe have much to offer in India’s economic, technological, and social transformation.
  • Luxembourg brings great financial clout, Norway offers impressive maritime technologies, Estonia is a cyber power, Czechia has deep strengths in optoelectronics, Portugal is a window to the Lusophone world, and Slovenia offers commercial access to the heart of Europe through its Adriatic sea port at Koper.
  • As India begins to realise this untapped potential, there are new openings with the 27-nation EU headquartered in Brussels.

EU’s important role in Indo-Pacific

  • The EU’s Indo-Pacific strategy is likely to have a much greater impact on the region more immediately and on a wider range of areas than military security.
  • Area’s of impact range from trade and investment to green partnerships, the construction of quality infrastructure to digital partnerships, and from strengthening ocean governance to promoting research and innovation.
  • Defence and security are important elements of the EU’s Indo-Pacific strategy that “seeks to promote an open and rules-based regional security architecture, including secure sea lines of communication, capacity-building and enhanced naval presence in the Indo-Pacific.
  • Whatever the specific circumstances of the AUKUS deal and its impact on France, the US wants all its partners, especially Europe, to contribute actively to the reconstitution of the Asian balance of power.
  • Working with Quad: The EU strategy, in turn, sees room for working with the Quad in the Indo-Pacific, while stepping up security cooperation with a number of Asian partners, including India, Indonesia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Singapore and Vietnam.
  • India is conscious that Europe can’t match America’s military heft in the Indo-Pacific.
  • But it could help strengthen the military balance and contribute to regional security in multiple other ways.

Consider the question “Delhi knows that Europe could significantly boost India’s capacity to influence future outcomes in the Indo-Pacific. It would also be a valuable complement to India’s Quad coalition”. Comment.


It was Russia that defined India’s discourse on the multipolar world after the Cold War. Today, it is Europe — with its much greater economic weight, technological strength, and normative power — that promises to boost India’s own quest for a multipolar world and a rebalanced Indo-Pacific.

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