Foreign Policy Watch: India – EU

Why the Indo-Pacific has assumed significance for Europe after the pandemic


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: RCEP

Mains level: Paper 2- Asia-EU engagement

The article highlights Asia’s growing significance in the wake of the pandemic. This is underscored by Europe’s meaningful engagement with Asia which is based on an understanding of the region’s geopolitical and economic significance.

Asia’s rise

  • The pandemic has upended many certainties. But it has reinforced one major trend in global politics: The rise of Asia.
  • The region’s rise has created three Asias.
  • First, there is the familiar Asia of businessopen, dynamic, interconnected.
  • Second, an Asia of geopolitics, with ever-starker nationalisms, territorial conflicts, arms races and Sino-American rivalry.
  • Lastly, we have an Asia of global challenges.
  • These three Asias are also marked by 3 dynamics:
  • 1) Geopolitical rivalries that threaten free trade.
  • 2) The fight against the pandemic is mutating into a systemic competition between democracy and authoritarianism.
  • 3) And frenzied economic growth is fuelling climate change.

European strategy for Indo-Pacific

  • Germany together with France and the Netherlands, have commenced work on a European strategy for the Indo-Pacific.
  • The strategy seeks cooperation with all countries of the region: For open economies and free trade; for the fight against pandemics and climate change; and for an inclusive, rules-based order.
  • Such a European strategy for the Indo-Pacific must take all three Asias into account.
  • Europe is a key trading, technology and investment partner for many countries of the region.
  •  The EU recently concluded groundbreaking free trade agreements with Japan, Singapore and Vietnam that set environmental and social standards.
  • In late 2020, the countries of East and Southeast Asia signed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, encompassing one-third of the global economy.
  • It is time for the EU to swiftly conclude the ongoing negotiations on trade agreements with Australia and New Zealand – and to move forward with negotiations with Indonesia and India.

Reducing dependencies

  • Following the above policies, Europe will also reduce dependency and following the principle of diversification.
  • Together with its Indo-Pacific partners, Europe can set standards for new technologies, human-centred digitisation and sustainable connectivity. 
  • In this endeavour, Europe can draw on its innovative and economic strength as well as its regulatory power.
  • At the EU-India Summit in May, the launch of a connectivity partnership with India will further connect India’s and Europe’s digital economies.

Rising tensions and rules-based Indo-Pacific

  • Meanwhile, tensions are rising in the Asia of geopolitics.
  • New cold wars or even hot conflicts in the Indo-Pacific would be an economic and political nightmare.
  • Europe must, therefore, take a firmer stand against polarisation and more strongly advocate an inclusive, rules-based Indo-Pacific.
  • The strategic partnership concluded between the EU and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) last December connects us with like-minded middle powers.

Asia of geopolitical challenges

  • Containing geopolitical rivalries in Asia is also a precondition for shaping the future with the Asia of global challenges.
  •  As the biggest emitters of CO2, the US, China, India and the EU will only win the fight against climate change together.
  • The Leaders Summit on Climate that will be hosted by the US next week sets the stage for cooperation.
  • Europe and the countries of the Indo-Pacific need each other also in the fight against the virus.
  • The EU is by far the biggest supporter of the international vaccine platform COVAX, and India as a leading producer of vaccines is the most important COVAX supplier.
  • We will all benefit from this as, without the worldwide vaccination rollout, mutations will keep on setting us back in the fight against the pandemic.
  • Europe will continue to stand up for human rights and democracy in the Indo-Pacific.
  • This was demonstrated with sanctions against those responsible for human rights violations in Xinjiang — and also against Myanmar’s generals.


Europe is ready for a new partnership — a partnership founded on seeking dialogue with the open Asia of business, taming geopolitical rivalry in Asia together and coming up with responses to the world of tomorrow with the Asia of global challenges. This must be the objective of European policy — for and with the Indo-Pacific

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