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The EU’s role in the Indo-Pacific

Context:

The Indo-Pacific region has acquired striking salience with the U.S.-China strategic contestation becoming sharper than before. Europe’s Asia connect is old, strong and multi-layered and hence it becomes relevant to understand the European stand in relation to Indo-Pacific region and the emergence of AUKUS and Quad.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. European Union (EU)
  2. What is the Indo-Pacific Region?
  3. Understanding the complicated nature of EU’s approach to the Indo-Pacific

European Union (EU)

  • The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of 27 member states that are located primarily in Europe.
  • The EU has developed an internal single market through a standardized system of laws that apply in all member states in those matters, and only those matters, where members have agreed to act as one.

EU policies aim to

  1. Ensure the free movement of people, goods, services and capital within the internal market;
  2. Enact legislation in justice and home affairs;
  3. Maintain common policies on trade, agriculture, fisheries and regional development.

A monetary union was established in 1999, coming into full force in 2002, and is composed of 19 EU member states which use the euro currency.

In January 2020, the United Kingdom became the first member state ever to leave the EU.

Note: United Kingdom is not a part of the EU now.

What is the Indo-Pacific Region?

The “Indo-Pacific” idea was originally conceived in 2006- 07. The term ‘IndoPacific’ combines the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and the Western Pacific Region (WP) – inclusive of the contiguous seas off East Asia and Southeast Asia – into a singular regional construct.

The idea has gained eminence in recent times due to:

  1. Increasing geopolitical connect between the Indian Ocean and the western Pacific in both the geo-economics
  2. Eastward shift of the world’s economic “centre of gravity” towards the Asian continent .
  3. Growing Eminence of India
  4. Politico-military aggressiveness of China.

Indo Pacific is an inclusive and representative term that reflects the contemporary interconnectedness of trade, technology and supply chains in a wider region.

  • Moreover, the Indo-Pacific is being redefined, ironically, by China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), debt-trap diplomacy, fictional territorial claims and a divide-and-rule strategy.
  • Indo Pacific is wider than the “Asia-Pacific” which represented the trans-Pacific strategic and economic impulses after World War II, and was confined to East and South-east Asia.

Understanding the complicated nature of EU’s approach to the Indo-Pacific

  • EU and the Indo-Pacific are “natural partner regions”. The EU is already a significant player in the Indian Ocean littoral states, the ASEAN area and the Pacific Island states, but the strategy aims to enhance the EU’s engagement across a wide spectrum.
  • Future progress will be moulded by principles ranging from the imperative to:
    • defend the “rules-based international order”;
    • promote a level-playing field for trade and investment, Sustainable Development Goals and multilateral cooperation;
    • support “truly inclusive policy-making” encompassing the civil society and the private sector;
    • and protect human rights and democracy.
  • The EU suffers from marked internal divisions. Many states view China as a great economic opportunity, but others are acutely conscious of the full contours of the China challenge. They believe that neither China’s dominance in Asia nor bipolarity leading to a new Cold War will serve Europe’s interests.
  • The risks facing the EU are varied. Russia next door is the more traditional threat. It is increasingly on China’s side. Hence, the EU should find it easy to cooperate with the Quad.
  • However, AUKUS muddied the waters, especially for France. Yet, endeavours by a part of the western alliance to bolster naval and technological facilities to deal with China cannot be unwelcome. What the EU needs is an internally coordinated approach.

-Source: The Hindu

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