Book Chapter: Europe in Indian Strategy
India is in the midst of re-crafting and reinventing its relations with most major states in the international system. While breakthroughs with the United States over the past decade have had perhaps the greatest impact on Indian strategy, the same period has also witnessed attempts at normalising relations with China and Pakistan, an increasingly close relationship with Israel, promising new partnerships with Japan and Brazil, and a reaffirmation of ties with Russia. In this light, perhaps the least explored and least developed link India has with a major centre of power, is with Europe. At the very least, Europe appears to be playing a diminishing role in India’s strategic thinking, despite its strong relations with individual countries: Britain, France and Germany, in particular. Europe is often conspicuously absent in important discussions of Indian grand strategy. The recent EU-India summit of December 10, 2010 clearly highlighted the constraints present in New Delhi’s relationship with Brussels. Unlike other recent summits involving India, the resulting joint statement explicitly called upon Pakistan to bring the perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks to justice and promised greater cooperation on terrorism, but contributed little else in strategic terms despite a wide spectrum of shared interests. It is perhaps no surprise that the summit received far less attention in the Indian media than the summits with the United States, China, Russia and even individual EU member states such as France and Britain.
Europe’s low profile in Indian strategic priorities is, at one level, unusual. As a single entity, it mirrors India’s federal structure with its culturally- and linguistically-distinct constituent entities. European states also generally share India’s commitment to liberal democratic values and multiculturalism. The European Union is India’s largest trade partner by some distance. Britain and France are important defence suppliers to India’s armed forces. And Europe is collectively home to an Indian diaspora that is over 1.7 million-strong and growing, albeit slowly.
The India-Europe link remains weak for several reasons, which can be broadly grouped as: economic, politico-military, socio-cultural, and existential. There have been disputes over disparate issues such as climate change, human rights, and world trade. At the same time, both India and Europe have a history of rising above such disagreements. While certainly not models of problem-free relationships, Europe’s ties with China and India’s new found partnership with the United States demonstrate the ability of both entities to forge fruitful relations with leading powers despite deep-seated disagreements. In fact, the failure of both India and Europe to take advantage of commonalities and surmount their differences only betrays the strategic shortsightedness of policymaking at both ends.
This book chapter was published in Krishnappa Venkatashamy and Princy George’s ‘Grand Strategy for India: 2020 and Beyond' (Pentagon Press, 2012). More about this chapter and the book can be found here.