As the ties between India and the EU continue to flourish, it is clear that the mutual need for greater security and economic cooperation may continue to supersede irritants
India’s neutrality has raised questions regarding its commitment to a rules-based order that underpins the EU-India strategic partnership.Yet differing positions on this crisis have not dampened India-Europe political engagement both at the Brussels level as well as bilaterally with EU member states; the upward momentum in ties remains steady.
The EU-India Trade & Technology Council was created to facilitate cooperation in these areas. Besides, Sweden’s current presidency of the Council of the EU has also prioritised the FTA with India.Crucially, divergences on Russia have not undermined EU-India strategic convergence in the Indo-Pacific where joint wariness about Chinese assertions is leading to enhanced cooperation. For the world’s largest single market and fifth-largest economy, the stability of trade routes and supply chains linking Asia to Europe is critical. In this context, the EU-India Connectivity Partnership was launched in 2021 as part of the EU’s Global Gateway to rival China’s Belt & Road Initiative. Against the backdrop of the Ukraine Crisis, the EU-India FTA negotiations, previously stalled since 2013, were reopened. Besides the natural economic benefits of the FTA, geopolitical imperatives including the stability of supply chains and diversification of trade partners played a role in relaunching the negotiations. In 2022, the EU-India Trade & Technology Council was created to facilitate cooperation in these areas. Besides, Sweden’s current presidency of the Council of the EU has also prioritised the FTA with India.
On the first anniversary of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, German Chancellor Scholz chose to visit India, and PM Modi may be visiting France soon at French President Macron’s invitation.Undoubtedly, the EU-India partnership has matured and galvanised through the pandemic and the Ukraine crisis. Gone are the days when episodes like the 2012 Italian Marines case derailed the entire partnership. Instead, present hiccups are being approached through better communication and a willingness to understand each other’s strategic perspectives. External Affairs Minister Jaishankar’s deft diplomacy and thorough articulation of India’s position has contributed to this understanding. For Europe, the Ukraine Crisis has led to a resurgence of values-based partnerships with like-minded countries, where India as a democracy, neatly fits in.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Europe accounts for 24 percent of the world’s total defence exports, and countries such as Germany are liberalising their arms export policies.Despite the declining value of India’s overall relationship with Russia, India will continue to maintain its ties with the country, primarily to prevent Moscow’s closer alignment with China and Pakistan, which would undermine Indian security. Moving forward, Russia will continue to remain a sticking point for Europe, and India’s well-performed balancing act could come under greater scrutiny by European partners. India may be compelled to make some tough choices as its space to navigate the international landscape further shrinks. Given the EU’s consensus-based mechanism of operation, countries such as Poland that are at the forefront of the conflict may reject advancing cooperation with India as it drags on. Yet so far, the European pushback on India’s position has played out more in media commentary and public perception. Its bearing on actual government-to-government relations has been limited with both sides seeming determined to focus on the broader long-term picture given the potential at stake. As debates on security, geoeconomics, China, Russia and the emerging world order continue to evolve within both Indian and European constituencies, New Delhi’s engagement with Brussels and member state capitals at this critical juncture is vital. As Borrell said, “Seeing eye-to-eye on all instances must not be a prerequisite for any cooperation”. For India and Europe, the mutual need for greater security and economic cooperation may continue to supersede irritants.
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Shairee Malhotra is Associate Fellow, Europe with ORF’s Strategic Studies Programme. Her areas of work include Indian foreign policy with a focus on EU-India relations, ...Read More +