India-EU PartnershipApprox Read Time: 4 minutes
India and post-Brexit EU and Britain:
- Brexit is over and done with.
- India will need to review its policy both towards Britain and the European Union (EU).
India and Britain before Brexit:
- For several years, Britain’s attraction was as a most convenient platform to do business in Europe.
- Britain had an outsized influence on EU’s policies towards India, claiming a familiarity with its former colony that other member countries lacked.
- These had started diminishing over the past decade.
India and Britain after Brexit:
- London will no longer be a critical capital in Indian calculations.
- But Britain will retain its attraction as one of the most important global financial markets and as a centre of technological innovation and knowledge.
- It will be an opinion leader in the Anglo-Saxon world.
- Relations with Britain will lose some salience, and relations with Britain will need to be reframed with a narrower, more bilateral focus.
- India should seek a recalibrated but strong relationship with London.
- EU, without Britain, would be weaker in some ways but could also gain in coherence.
- As an EU member, Britain provided its strongest link with the United States (US) and resisted more independent European initiatives such as in defense and foreign relations.
- With Britain gone and the US under Trump dismissive of the EU and of NATO, it is likely that Europe will begin to look at a more cohesive and relatively independent international role.
- This, at a time when its relationship with China is also undergoing change, due to anxiety over China’s predatory investment in European strategic assets such as ports and logistic hubs.
Opportunity for India-EU strategic partnership:
- This provides an opportunity for India to revive its strategic partnership with EU.
- Strategic partnership which was earlier announced in 2004 fell short of expectations due to two main factors:
- EU prioritizing relations with China, which was seen as a bigger economic opportunity than India.
- Europe’s inward turn in the aftermath of the global financial and economic crisis of 2008.
- There is today a more congenial environment to revive the partnership.
- An early opportunity to provided momentum in this regard will be during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Brussels in late February.
Trade and investment agreement must be prioritized:
- Negotiations on trade and investment agreement must be resumed with a clear political direction from leaders on both sides to conclude a pact speedily.
- If the economic pillar of the relationship is weak, then the strategic partnership cannot be sustained.
- Both sides will need to shed the growing protectionist tendencies in their countries.
India and the EU also have many convergent interests:
- India and the EU also have a convergent interest in a multilateral rule-based international trade and investment regime embedded in a reformed World Trade Organization (WTO).
- Convergence in interests is also in other domains such as the climate crisis, cyber security, peaceful uses of space, international terrorism and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
- Both are also multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-lingual and multi-cultural plural democracies.
- There is every reason for the two sides to engage in a broad-based dialogue to promote a multilateralism and rules-based regimes.
A stronger relationship will not be easy to achieve:
- Criticism of Indian policies in European civil society, parliament and media may put Indian diplomacy on a defensive mode.
- This could prevent leveraging of the substantial and mutual opportunities which are emerging in a changing global landscape.
- There is a danger that both sides may settle for a transactional relationship, while downplaying shared values and affinities.
- India has always supported and even cheered European unity because this would enable the EU to emerge as an independent pole in a multilateral order. This role has become even more important today.
- A strong India-EU partnership can help shape a more balanced, more democratic and peaceful international order with stronger multilateral institutions and multilateral processes to tackle global challenges.
- This relationship has compelling reasons to move forward to a much stronger one.