While ample of light are thrown on the growing closeness between India and EU which are now the strategic partners, there are some real issues with are either ignored or purposely not been debated.
During and after the visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Europe several commentaries are written to create an aura that this is the beginning of new era for an age old relationship. While ample of light are thrown on the growing closeness between India and EU which are now the strategic partners, there are some real issues with are either ignored or purposely not been debated. For an honest analysis there is a need to compartmentalise the India – EU relations into two categories. First, is the growing economic ties and there are significant improvement in this area. Started with the first generation development cooperation, the EU- India relations have now entered into a third generation relationship of strategic partnership. Presently EU is the India’s largest trading partner and accounts for 21% of India’s total exports and 16% of total imports. From the European side this figure is not very impressive and India accounts to 2.4% of the total EU’s export and 1.9% of the total EU’s import. India is presently ranked 10th in the list of the EU’s trading partners in 2008, up from 15th in 2002. Apart from this EU is the largest source of foreign direct investment in India. In brief, India and the EU are now significant economic partners and in future ascending trends would characterise this partnership.
Coming to second aspect there are subjects pertaining to geopolitical and strategic issues, which are yet to fit in the realm of India- EU relationship. On the political side India and the EU shares the common vision for a democratic, multi-cultural and multipolar world order. With these commonality in the approach towards the international relations there are ample of scope for the two sides to increase cooperation on several relevant issues which ranges from fight against terrorism to climate change. Despite this, both sides suffer from concrete foreign policy approach and this dilemma mars prospects of getting into a close bonding. Undoubtedly, EU is the best example of cooperation between the sovereign states in the history of international relations, but economics is in the core of this association. It reflects in international image of the EU where analysts are sceptical about its willingness as a supra-national organisation to play an independent role in the world affairs. There are scholars and students of European politics who categorise EU as a normative power committed for certain fundamental human values. This make the EU as strong proponent of human rights, climate change, rule of law, democracy but on the matters like international terrorism, managing crisis in West Asia, taking independent view on the American hegemony is missing from its external relations conducts.
There is a projection of Lisbon Treaty which emphasises on the active intervention of the EU in international relations. There is also an ambitious European Defence Policy which is yet to prove its practical relevance. Whatever is said or done for strategic issues EU as an organisation and its member states really heavily on NATO. There are clear indications at the NATO’s Lisbon summit that it will acquire more prominence considering the constraints aroused in the post financial crisis situation where Euro- Atlantic states cannot bear the sumptuous defence expenditure. An intergovernmental security structure like NATO fulfils the security requirement by pooling money and resources. Thus, any prophetic projection of the EU’s independent role subtracting its reliance on the US is hard to envisage at this juncture.
Similarly, India is also struggling to chalk out its course in the world affair where confusion is evident in its move. In the last two decades New Delhi’s engagement with Washington is on the roll and there is a paradigm shift from some of its earlier positions. In the post-cold war world order these shifts were unavoidable but the advocacy of getting into the western-atlantics bloc would adversely affect India’s long standing stature of independent international player. With a rightful desire of being the world power India have to attain a distinct character in the world politics. Dominated by neo-liberal policy making regime Indian government had failed on occasions to pursue its national interest in aggressive and rightful manner. Vote against Iran, perpetual silence on Palestinian conflict situations, failure to start diplomatic parley with Pakistan’s civilian regime, inappropriate intervention in domestic politics of neighbouring countries are some of the glaring examples of decision making by the ruling neo-liberal elite. The unnecessary depiction of China as a ‘future security threat’ and subsequently justifying pro-US approach is also the part of the same game. Interestingly US, China and India all are following the same path, some with few cautions but at the end all three are fellow travellers. There will remain competition and cooperation between the three of different natures but to get into propaganda of Chinese being the national security threat is mostly bogus.
In short, both India and the EU are unclear of their own role and lack political willingness to project themselves as independent world players. There are plenty of opportunities for India and the EU to play a vital part in the crisis of Middle East, Afghanistan, Iran, international terrorism etc, but all depends on the way these two will consider their own positions. There are economic relations between India and EU which will grow. The two sides have the capability to define the developing order of the international system where the US is now a declining power. Any political cooperation with common vision of just and equitable world order would be beneficial for India and EU.