Ensuring a free, open and a rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific has become a major policy priority for countries of the region. The Indo-Pacific region generates 60 per cent of global gross domestic product and is linked to Europe through transregional production networks and supply chains. With an economy slated to be the world's third largest by 2030, a population projected to be the world's largest by 2027, and two strategic coastlines at the heart of the Indian Ocean, India holds the potential to be the European Union's most important partner as Europe seeks to balance its relations with China while securing the expansion of its engagement with the countries of the Indo-Pacific. While the Indo-Pacific is not a region that is of immediate geopolitical relevance to Germany, the interconnected nature of global commerce ties it inexorably to geopolitical concerns with any disruption of the latter directly standing to impact the former. The German government has billed the guidelines as a coherent effort to reorient its foreign and security policy approach to the strategically important region that has become increasingly vital to the country’s national interests. As Germany’s former Minister for Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas put it “The Himalayas and the Strait of Malacca may seem far away. But our prosperity and geopolitical influence in the coming decades are also based on how we work with the states of the Indo-Pacific.”
Both Germany and the EU’s Indo-Pacific policy document acknowledges that the region is increasingly characterized by and consequently, susceptible to shifts in power equations with there being divergent interests and aspirations of countries comprising it. As an advocate of the rules-based international order, their interests lie in its participation in the region’s growth and the protection of regional structures. The need for the maintenance of freedom of navigation, territorial sovereignty has been underlined as well. Towards this end, for instance, the navies of India and Germany carried out a joint exercise in the Gulf of Aden near Yemen in August 2021, earlier this year in January 2022, a German frigate FGS Bayern made a port call to Mumbai as part of its seven-month deployment to the Indo-Pacific region. India has similar interests like Germany and the EU in a free and open Indo-Pacific and security of its maritime trading routes. Therefore, how does the German and the EU Indo-Pacific policies stand to impact the dynamics of the Indo-Pacific region? What are the potential areas that India and Germany alongside the EU can work together to ensure a stable and rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific? How would they gain from this cooperative arrangement?
Against this background, the Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi in collaboration with the India Office of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung is holding a series of roundtables. The first in the series will look into the potential areas of cooperation between India, Germany and also the EU in the maritime domain to ensure a stable, free, open and a rules-based Indo-Pacific. The Indo-Pacific is essentially a maritime geography, and hence there is great potential for countries to work together in the maritime sector. Some of the areas where collaboration can take place are maritime domain awareness, marine economy, capacity building in third countries or region like Southeast Asia, helping island nations of the Western Indian Ocean in preparing for natural disasters and humanitarian assistance. Experts from India, Germany, other EU countries and the ASEAN will come together to discuss about the above possibilities as well as how can both India, Germany and the EU benefit from this partnership and reap strategic advantage in the Indo-Pacific region.
3:00 PM – 3:15 PM | Opening Remarks | Abhijit Singh and Pankaj Madan
3:15 PM – 4:15 PM | Session 1: Safeguarding the marine environment in the Indo-Pacific | Abhijit Singh, Eva Pejsova, Stefania Benaglia, Kapil Narula, and Céline PAJON (Moderator)
The marine environment or the marine economy is also another very important area of interest and concern for countries of the Indo-Pacific. Often news of illegal and unreported fishing, over-exploitation of fishing resources, dumping of marine plastic debris circle around us. What can India, Germany and the EU do in this regard? What are the potential and particular areas of cooperation under Blue Economy? Can Germany be a viable partner for India in its Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative which, in one of its pillars, focusses on marine economy and Blue Economy?
4:15 PM – 5:15 PM | Session 2: Maritime Domain Awareness and Capacity building in the Indo-Pacific | Sarabjeet Parmar, Marianne Péron-Doise, Christian Wirth, Ankita Dutta, and Admiral Girish Luthra (Moderator)
This session will look at what India, Germany along with the EU can do in these two potential areas? Can the three work towards helping in the capacity building of countries in Southeast Asia and the littorals of the Western Indian Ocean like Sri-Lanka, Maldives, Seychelles? Can we expect Germany to soon place a liaison officer in India’s IFC-IOR like France? While France has been a long time trustable partner of India and has a lot of assets and presence in the Western Indian Ocean which makes it even more worthy as a security partner of India in the Indian Ocean, what can Germany bring to the plate? How are Germany and the EU planning to implement the objectives laid forward in their respective Indo-Pacific strategies?