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Europe is Looming Larger Than Ever in India’s Strategic Calculus

Context

As Russia, isolated by unprecedented Western sanctions, deepens its alliance with China, Europe has begun to loom larger than ever before in India’s strategic calculus. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Berlin, Copenhagen, and Paris this week could give us a glimpse of India’s post-Russian strategic future in Europe.

Relevance

GS-II: Effect of Policies and Politics of Developed and Developing Countries on India’s interests, Indian Diaspora.

Dimensions of the Article

  • Engagement with collective Europe
  • India’s engagement with smaller European countries
  • Germany and India’s engagement with Russia
  • Way Forward

Engagement with collective Europe

  • In her visit to Delhi, the president of the European Commission, Ursula von Der Leyn, unveiled the new contours of the EU’s strategic partnership with India by launching the India-Europe Trade and Technology Council. 
  • This week, the focus is on India’s key bilateral partnerships with European majors — Germany and France — as well as a critical northern corner of Europe, the so-called Norden.
  • Having built up a significant engagement with Moscow over the decades, India and Germany are under pressure to disentangle from the Russian connection.
  • Modi and Scholz could also exchange notes on how their long-standing illusions about China came crashing down.
  • Macron’s return to power in France offers a good moment for Modi to imagine the next phase in bilateral relations.
  • For some time now it has been said that France is India’s “new Russia” — Delhi’s most important strategic partner.
  • In recent years, France has emerged as a strong defender of India’s interests in the United Nations Security Council and a regional ally in the vast Indo-Pacific theatre.
  • France has also been a major supplier of advanced arms to India.
  • But Delhi and Paris have been some distance away from demonstrating full possibilities of their defense partnership.
  • There is no doubt that Western Europe has moved from the margins to the center of India’s foreign and security policies.
  • The crisis in Ukraine, which has shattered the regional order that emerged in 1991, intensifies the imperatives for deeper strategic cooperation between India and its European partners.

India’s engagement with smaller European countries

  • In Copenhagen, the bilateral talks with Danish leadership are about Delhi finally finding time for the smaller European countries.
  • The Nordic summit hosted by Denmark underlines India’s discovery of the various sub-regions of Europe — from the Baltics to the Balkans and from Iberia to Mittleuropa.
  • The Nordic Five — Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden — have a population of barely 25 million but their GDP at $1.8 trillion is greater than that of Russia.
  • Two members of the Nordic five — Sweden and Finland — are now rushing to end their long-standing neutral status and join NATO.
  • The other three — Denmark, Iceland, and Norway — have been founding members of NATO, set up in 1949.
  • Listening to the Nordic leaders might help Delhi appreciate the deeply-held fears about Russia among Moscow’s smaller neighbours.
  • In Copenhagen, Modi would want to build on the unique bilateral green strategic partnership with Denmark.

Germany and India’s engagement with Russia

  • Berlin is tied far more deeply to Russia than India.
  • Germany’s annual trade with Russia is about $60 billion while India’s is at $10 bn.
  • Germany relies heavily on Russian natural gas, while Russian arms dominate India’s weaponry.
  • Irrespective of their Russian preferences, Germany and India have no option but to live with circumstances over which they have no control.
  • Opportunity for India: Making India an attractive new destination for German capital, now under pressure to reduce its exposure to Russian and Chinese markets, should be the highest priority for PM Modi.
  • Germany is one of India’s oldest economic partners, but the full potential of the commercial relationship has never been realised.
  • If there ever was a moment to think big about the future of German trade and investment in India, it is now.

Way Forward

A new paradigm is beckoning India — strong commercial and security partnerships with Europe that stand on their own merit and bring the many synergies between them into active play.

Source – The Indian Express

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October 2022
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