India’s growing embrace of EU
Modi’s three-nation tour in Europe will boost ties and set the stage for future cooperation
A lot of the attention during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s three-nation tour of Europe will be on the Ukraine crisis, which has upended regional security architecture and altered that continent’s approach towards Russia. But the trip to Germany, Denmark and France is also about India’s desire to forge closer cooperation with key European powers in areas ranging from green growth and trade to defence and security. To be sure, the visit will afford an opportunity to the government to explain its position on the Ukraine crisis to the leadership of several countries that have made sweeping changes to their stance on defence and security issues in recent weeks, be it the moves by Sweden and Finland to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) or Germany’s decision to dramatically scale up spending on its military. Besides engaging the new German administration led by Chancellor Olaf Scholz in intergovernmental consultations, Mr Modi will participate in the second India-Nordic Summit in Copenhagen and meet French President Emmanuel Macron following his recent re-election.
India has made it amply clear it won’t be forced into choosing sides in the Ukraine crisis by pressure from Western partners. However, India’s position on the worst conflict witnessed by eastern Europe in more than half a century has evolved to include a condemnation of civilian killings and a strong demand to respect territorial integrity. It would be hypocritical of European powers to demand that India isolate Russia when they themselves are still among the largest purchasers of Russian energy.
Germany, which was among the first European powers to fashion an Indo-Pacific strategy and has been in the lead for pushing for an India-European Union (EU) trade deal, is an important partner for trade and investment, mobility for Indian professionals and the green transition. The Nordic countries – Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden – are crucial for India’s plans in fields such as innovation, renewable energy, and cooperation in the Arctic region. France is India’s foremost ally within Europe, which has steadfastly extended support in crucial areas such as defence and counterterrorism. India’s growing embrace of the EU in recent years reflects the growing importance of Europe in its foreign policy and all three stops on Mr Modi’s three-day tour will facilitate an in-person assessment of collaborations aimed at post-Covid recovery and set the stage for future cooperation.