Relevance: GS Paper II
Why has this issue cropped up?
President Ram Nath Kovind’s visited three European states — Cyprus, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic— last week .
Significance of this trip
- His trip is part of an effort by the government to put Europe back at the center of India’s global consciousness.
- India’s diplomatic mind space is occupied mostly by Pakistan, China, and the United States. India’s relations with the ASEAN have become a part of the foreign policy discourse. Further, Japan has become an important element of India’s international relations.
- But Europe as a collective has drawn little attention.
- Unresolved issues with key countries in Europe had injected much negativity to India’s relations with key European countries.
India’s engagement with Europe
- The case of the detained Italian marines was sorted out. This led to Rome’s support for India’s membership of the export control groups and its lifting the political hold on the India-EU annual summit in 2016.
- In what could turn out to be a potential game-changer, India has laid the foundation for a strong strategic partnership with France. Apart from Rafale, the ambit of the relationship with France now includes maritime and naval collaboration.
- Beyond the bilateral, the government sought to intensify engagement with the European Union. Although the two sides had unveiled a strategic partnership way back in 2004, the movement was too slow. That is changing now.
- The EU is currently mapping out an “India Strategy” that is expected to lay out an ambitious new agenda for the relationship. India, on its part, is attaching a new strategic salience to the relationship with Europe.
- As the world’s second-largest economic entity and a major source of capital, Europe is a natural partner in India’s economic transformation.
- India has a lot of catching up to do with Europe — from trade liberalization to educational exchanges and climate change to security cooperation.
- The government’s boldest move lies in a conscious effort to break out of the anti-colonial and Cold War attitudes that crimped India’s engagement with Europe.
- The PM’s enthusiastic outreach to Britain and participation in the Commonwealth summit, much against the grain of conventional thinking in the foreign policy community, opened up new opportunities with London. So is the unfolding Indian Ocean partnership with France.
- As it deepens engagement with Europe today, India is learning to appreciate the multiple forces — religious, ethnic, economic and political — that are reshaping the continent.
- As it reaches out to Central Europe, India has begun to acknowledge the region’s complex relations with its large neighbors — Germany and Russia.
- In deepening ties with the Nordic and Baltic states, Delhi recognizes their deep-seated fears about an assertive Moscow.
As Europe steps out from America’s protective shell, it will need partners in promoting stability in Eurasia and the Indo-Pacific. That opens up one of the most productive and exciting lines of strategic advance for India in the coming years.