Foreign Policy Watch: India – EU

[op-ed snap] Together in an uncertain world


Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional & global groupings & agreements involving India &/or affecting India’s interests

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: European Union

Mains level: EU’s renewed focus on India and its effect on India’s diplomacy


New India strategy of EU

  1. The European Union recently released its strategy on India after 14 years
  2. The new document is sweeping in its scope and lays out a roadmap for strengthening the EU-India partnership, which has been adrift for a while in the absence of a clearly articulated strategy
  3. The 2004 EU-India declaration on building a bilateral strategic partnership, which this roadmap replaces, has not had much of a success in reconfiguring the relationship as was expected

Focus areas of new strategy

  1. The new strategy underscores a transformative shift in Brussels vis-à-vis India
  2. It talks of key focus areas such as the need to conclude a broader Strategic Partnership Agreement, intensifying dialogue on Afghanistan and Central Asia, strengthening technical cooperation on fighting terrorism, and countering radicalisation, violent extremism and terrorist financing
  3. More significant from the perspective of the EU, which has been traditionally shy of using its hard power tools, is a recognition of the need to develop defence and security cooperation with India

Struggling to build a robust partnership

  1. Despite sharing a congruence of values and democratic ideals, India and the EU have both struggled to build a partnership that can be instrumental in shaping the geopolitics and geoeconomics of the 21st century
  2. India’s relations with individual EU nations have progressed dramatically over the last few years and the EU’s focus on India has grown
  3. This is because individual nations of the EU started becoming more pragmatic in their engagement with India, Brussels continued to be big-brotherly in its attitude on political issues and ignorant of the geostrategic imperatives of Indian foreign and security policies
  4. Even as the EU emerged as India’s largest trading partner and biggest foreign investor, the relationship remained devoid of any strategic content
  5. It has now become imperative for the two to give each other a serious look

Need for the partnership

  1. In this age when U.S. President Donald Trump is upending the global liberal order so dear to the Europeans, and China’s rise is challenging the very values which Brussels likes to showcase as the ones underpinning global stability, a substantive engagement with India is a natural corollary
  2. There is a new push in Brussels to emerge as a geopolitical actor of some significance and India is a natural partner in many respects
  3. At a time when India’s horizons are widening beyond South Asia and the Indian Ocean region, Brussels is also being forced to look beyond its periphery
  4. As the wider EU political landscape evolves after Brexit, and India seeks to manage the turbulent geopolitics in Eurasia and the Indo-Pacific, both recognise the importance of engaging each other
  5. The new India strategy document unveiled by the EU, therefore, comes at an appropriate time when both have to seriously recalibrate their partnership

Way forward for India

  1. India needs resources and expertise from the EU for its various priority areas, such as cybersecurity, urbanisation, environmental regeneration, and skill development
  2. As the EU shifts its focus to India, New Delhi should heartily reciprocate this outreach
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