Foreign Policy Watch: India – EU

The challenge for Middle Powers like India, France and Germany


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- Challenges for the middle powers


Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to European capitals should help both sides acquire a better understanding of each other’s security concerns. Whether it will fundamentally alter equations remains to be seen.

New India-EU equation

  • As “Middle Powers”, countries like France, Germany and India should seek policy space for themselves and not be forced into taking positions by the Big Powers — the United States, China and Russia.
  • The EU is understandably concerned about Russian aggressiveness in Europe.
  •  ndia is equally concerned about Chinese aggressiveness in Asia. 
  • Even after Russia has sought to tear down the post-Cold War security structure in Europe, India has stayed the course in its equations both with Russia and the European Union.

Division of national and group agenda and its implications for India

  • While Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is the context in which Modi visited Europe and the head of the European Union visited India, the fact is that the agenda at bilateral meetings with individual European countries has generally been very different from the agenda that the EU prefers to focus on.
  • While individual European nations, especially Germany and France, focus on their own strategic and business interests, including defence equipment sales, the EU retains the remit for negotiating trade and investment rules.
  • Problem for India: This division of national and group agendas has often posed a problem for India because individual countries cannot offer bilateral market access in exchange for bilateral defence deals.
  • So the French will sell Rafale jets in the name of strategic partnership but they cannot offer a trade and investment deal that Brussels will not allow Paris to strike with India.
  • While the EU and G7 may now wish to derisk, if not decouple, from aggressively rising China, how much they would be able to do in this regard and what they would be willing to do to help a slowly rising India remains to be seen.

Way forward

  • For India’s part, it is not clear at the moment how much and what it can unilaterally offer Europe beyond the promise of standing up to China or reducing dependence on Russia.
  • Challenge for the three middle powers lies in combine their “strength and stability” to ensure “peace and tranquillity” in their respective neighbourhoods.
  • If middle powers like Brazil, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Africa and others can work together they may well be able to impose some discipline on the three big powers — China, Russia and the US.


At a time when big powers lurking behind in seeking to stabilise and shape the global order middle powers need to act to balance the influence exerted by the big powers.

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