Military, security or economic cooperation…, what will be the potential for cooperation between the European Union and India, in the context of continuous countries looking to India to both promote India’s strategy Ocean – Pacific, just looking for consensus on the Ukraine issue as well as how to deal with Russia?
Leyen’s baggage brought to India
The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, visited India with a very attractive proposal, that the European Union and India would form a Joint Technology and Trade Council. It should be noted that among the EU’s close allies, only the US was asked to form this Council by the EU last year. India will be the second country.
This shows that the EU attaches special importance to India’s role and influence in the global technology and trade playing field. The reason why the establishment of the EU-India Joint Trade and Technology Council is remarkable is because it is a mechanism that allows the two sides to promote extensive strategic cooperation in many fields. On trade first, this Joint Council will accelerate discussions between the two sides on concluding a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement. Negotiations on this Agreement are likely to resume this summer.
More importantly, beyond purely commercial issues, this Joint Council will pave the way for the EU and India to work more closely together in key technologies such as 5G, 6G; discuss and exchange defense technology; exchange experiences in managing security issues on digital technology platforms. In other words, Ms. Ursula von der Leyen visited India with a very specific proposal to take the relationship between the two sides to a new strategic level, which can be seen as equivalent to the level of the closest ally. Of course, the purpose of the EU is not simply to upgrade relations with India but more deeply, it is to counterbalance and contain China’s growing power in trade and military in the region. region, as well as gradually pulling India away from Russia’s influence in the context of the war in Ukraine.
Will New Delhi change its approach?
Clearly, the leaders of India and the European Union (EU) have many issues to discuss during the visit to India of European Commission (EC) President Ursula von de Leyen. It is not only bilateral cooperation such as trade, energy, climate change, digital technology and people-to-people exchanges… India and the EU also exchanged views and found common ground, and made efforts to cooperate in a series of important international issues such as the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, competition for influence in the Indo-Pacific region, relations with China…
In particular, the most notable is India’s position regarding the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. New Delhi has repeatedly expressed its attitude and approach around this issue. And it has been recognized by many of the country’s important partners. Since the outbreak of the crisis in Ukraine, India has maintained a neutral position, opposed to the use of force, demanded an end to the fighting, and responded to the humanitarian needs of civilians.
India also ‘says No’ to Western sanctions against Russia. It believes that tightening sanctions will not solve the problem and that diplomacy must be the top priority to resolve the conflict. And during the visit of European Commission President von de Leyen, India still clearly shows this view.
In fact, this approach serves India’s national interests to the maximum. First, India maintains a balance in its relations with two important partners, Russia and the United States. This country still promotes cooperation in many bilateral fields. Second, India makes full use of its geopolitical advantages to get its partners to accept its ‘play’. Third, in the crisis, India still takes advantage of opportunities to gain benefits. For example, continuing to buy weapons and equipment contracts with Russia, promoting the purchase of oil at preferential prices from Russia, despite Western sanctions. It can be seen that India is in a favorable position to increase its position and interests despite the crisis.
The possibility of India reducing its dependence on Russia
At the beginning of the war in Ukraine, there were many voices from European countries expressing dissatisfaction, even criticizing India’s neutral stance, not only not participating in sanctions. Russia like Western countries but also continues to maintain close relations with Russia, increasing the purchase of oil and coal from Russia. However, the US and European countries soon realized that the pressure of this bloc on India would not be able to change India’s approach to Ukraine or its relations with Russia.
First, India and Russia are long-standing close partners, having a very deep political-military relationship. Russia is still the largest supplier of weapons to India and since the Ukraine war broke out, Russia has also given India a lot of incentives in the purchase and sale of oil and coal when selling oil to India. at a much cheaper price (only 1/3) compared to the market price. India is the second largest oil importer in Asia, so in terms of national interests, India obviously does not give up close relations with Russia easily.
The problem for Europe and the United States is that they cannot be as tough on India as they are with China, simply because India is seen as one of the most important links in their inclusive strategy. encirclement and containment of China that the US and the West are deploying. India is a member of the “Diamond Quartet” group including the US, Japan, Australia and India. Being too tough on India risks disrupting this strategy and pushing India towards Russia-China.
Therefore, with India, the West is forced to find softer measures. This is also the biggest reason that brought Ursula von der Leyen, and last week, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, to visit India. The West hopes that through the supply of technology, weapons and increased trade, the bloc will gradually pull India away from its dependence on Russian weapons and energy. Whether this aim succeeds or not will take time, but India is a great power with a history of being the flagship of the Non-Aligned movement, with a tradition of relative independence and self-reliance in foreign policy. . Thus, India will not easily lean towards the West. In fact, with the current neutral approach, India is the beneficiary of the most.
Can staying neutral be counterproductive?
Up to this point, there is no indication that India will or can change its position on important world issues, particularly in the Ukraine crisis. And there is no reason to think that the West will shun India because of the mismatch of views between the two sides. That’s because it still has a lot of leverage to make the West, or even Russia, consider ‘loss-better’ if it wants to impose sanctions.
Considering the geopolitical factors and the endogenous capacity of the economy, India meets the conditions to become an indispensable partner in the region and the world. For example, the remaining three members of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue Group (Quad) are the US, Japan and Australia, although they strongly want India to cut economic ties with Russia, in favor of Western sanctions against Moscow. West but did not condemn India. They accept (temporarily) New Delhi’s foreign policy regarding the Ukraine crisis. That’s because the West needs to strengthen ties with India on another front. It is a strategic competition with China in the Indo-Pacific region, where India has a lot of potential and is best positioned to challenge China’s rise.
During the recent visit to India by European Commission President Ursula von de Leyen, if international public opinion paid much attention to the West’s pressure on Russia during the Ukraine crisis, India’s internal affairs were more concerned with the commitment and implementation of EU commitments to peace, stability, and respect for the rule of law in the Indo-Pacific region.
India and the EU both have common concerns in China’s global assertiveness and intentions, as well as the impact of the Belt and Road Initiative in Europe. Meanwhile, India is also concerned about China’s ambitions in South Asia, as well as the neighboring country’s border disputes. Therefore, India needs the EU to show it clearly in action if it wants to truly become a reliable, reciprocal partner. There are many other examples to show that the EU needs India and India also needs the EU for long-term interests. It is such interactions that will help India-EU relations become more concrete and deeper in the future.
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