Narendra Modi’s tenure as India’s prime minister has been marked by incredibly active diplomatic efforts. In his first twelve months in office he visited 18 countries – including the United States, China, Brazil, Japan, and Australia – and hosted the presidents of the United States, China, and Russia.
But amid this flurry of foreign policy activity, Brussels was conspicuous in its absence. On Modi’s first trip to Europe this April, he visited Berlin and Hanover, Paris and Toulouse – indications of where India’s strategic and commercial priorities lie in Europe. Although the prospect of a one-day stopover in Brussels was floated, it did not come to pass. Three years have now elapsed since the European Union and India – the world’s two largest democratic polities – held a summit meeting.
The reasons for the latest missed connection vary depending on whom one asks. Around Brussels’ Schumanplein, the accepted explanation is that the dates simply did not work. The European Commission was in a state of flux and did not have its house in order. Indian officials offer a more sinister theory: EU High Representative Federica Mogherini – a former foreign minister of Italy – deliberately refused to respond to Indian requests due to an ongoing spat over the arrest of two Italians by Indian authorities. The two marines, on board a merchant vessel, were charged with killing Indian fishermen whom they mistook for pirates.