Decryption of Narendra Modi’s European visit
After Ukraine, Europe sees the Indo-Pacific as a new sphere of influence
The Indian Prime Minister’s three-day European tour is a strategic inclination towards forging closer ties with the once overlooked yet hugely important ally. India and Europe have historically not had strategic partnerships in the past due to their respective national and geopolitical orientations. India has always looked at post-war Europe from a British or Cold War frame of reference. For the past six decades, he has worked with Russia to stop Europe’s domination. Meanwhile, Europe too has largely ignored India’s strategic importance and bet on China as a stabilizing factor in pan-Asian geopolitics. This does not mean that European countries or power blocs have not had strong bilateral ties with India over the past decades. This status quo is now being challenged by Russian aggression in Ukraine. It compelled Europe as a bloc to rethink its external engagements, find new allies and partners, and view the Indo-Pacific as a new sphere of influence. Many countries in Europe must rewrite their energy budgets by reducing their heavy dependence on Russia. Likewise, there is a sudden need to modernize their defense machinery and not depend on US-led NATO. It is in this context that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meetings in Berlin, Copenhagen and Paris take on their full importance. Germany and India have a long-standing bilateral relationship institutionally reflected in the High-Level Intergovernmental Consultations (IGC) mechanism. This dialogue is extended by Germany to its privileged allies and involves heads of state and senior ministers to steer the relationship. India is aware of Germany’s leading role in steering the European Union’s political, strategic and security framework. Moreover, India and Germany seem to be on the same side, when it comes to criticism from world powers over their energy dependence on Russia. However, India buys only a fraction of its total fuel needs from Russia, compared to Germany. Meanwhile, the Ukraine crisis has forced Germany to pledge to significantly reduce its energy dependence on Russia by the end of the year. The Prime Minister’s visit also marked the signing of agreements between the two nations in areas related to green energy, migration and the environment.
The next step in Copenhagen was for the renewal of the Nordic partnership. The Nordic nations including Finland, Sweden, Iceland, Norway and Denmark are a group of relatively sparsely populated but wealthy nations in Europe. It was in 2018 that India held its first Nordic summit to better align itself with this powerful group of nations. India and the Nordic countries have huge untapped areas of mutual cooperation, all of which can be very important for each other’s prosperity. The Nordic countries are known for their expertise in clean energy, healthcare and green technologies. This is an ideal situation for India to seek investment in these countries as it builds on its zero-carbon economy and emerges as a global leader in clean energy. It also helps India save billions by reducing import bills for “polluting fuels”. Meanwhile, for the Nordic countries, India represents a largely untapped market that is growing faster than many of their neighbours. It is also a market that has billions of new customers eager for new innovative products and repairers at the “right price”. The last step for the Prime Minister, Paris, was to reiterate the continuation of the bilateral dialogue between India and France. France remains one of India’s staunchest supporters in almost all multilateral and plurilateral platforms. It is also India’s close defense partner, having supplied Rafael strategic aircraft to India. India is reportedly seeking to deepen the security partnership with France following adverse geopolitical shifts.
(The author is a policy analyst. Opinions expressed are personal.)