Security more important in India-EU ties, says European Parliament panel chief | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Security more important in India-EU ties, says European Parliament panel chief

ByReazul H Laskar
Dec 20, 2023 04:56 AM IST

India and the EU have common priorities and have worked together on maritime security through efforts such as Operation Atalanta.

NEW DELHI: Defence and security cooperation is becoming a more important pillar of the India-European Union (EU) partnership because democracies worldwide are facing threats from authoritarian regimes, the head of a key European Parliament panel said on Tuesday.

Nathalie Loiseau, chair of the European Parliament’s subcommittee on security and defence, is visiting India with a delegation to discuss common security challenges and cooperation in the Indo-Pacific (X/NathalieLoiseau)
Nathalie Loiseau, chair of the European Parliament’s subcommittee on security and defence, is visiting India with a delegation to discuss common security challenges and cooperation in the Indo-Pacific (X/NathalieLoiseau)

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Nathalie Loiseau, chair of the European Parliament’s subcommittee on security and defence who is visiting the country with a delegation to discuss common security challenges and cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, told HT in an interview that EU member states are looking to do more with India in areas such as maritime security, procurement of equipment and joint ventures to develop military hardware.

Since the delegation arrived in New Delhi on Sunday, its members have met external affairs minister S Jaishankar, defence secretary Giridhar Aramane, Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla, and chair of the parliamentary standing committee on defence, Jual Oram. The delegation will also visit the headquarters of the Western Naval Command in Mumbai on Wednesday.

Loiseau said the discussions focused on the geopolitical situation, security priorities of India and the EU, and ways to strengthen the partnership.

Responding to a question on whether such security cooperation has become more important, she said: “There is absolutely no doubt about it, because we feel that, right now, democracies are under threat worldwide and we have to team up to defend our way of living, our choices against the hegemonistic behaviour of some authoritarian regimes.”

India and the EU have common priorities and have worked together on maritime security through efforts such as Operation Atalanta, a counter-piracy mission in the western Indian Ocean. “These are good experiences and we are willing to do more. We also know that there are important partnerships in terms of either procurement of military equipment or joint ventures,” Loiseau said.

The EU has taken several steps to bolster security cooperation with India, including posting a military attaché to its mission in India for the first time in November. EU member states have also sought to increase their naval presence in the Indo-Pacific, but France is the only European power with significant naval assets in the region because 93% its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of more than 11 million sq km is in the Indo-Pacific.

Loiseau, who represents France’s Renew Europe in the European Parliament, acknowledged neither French nor Indian naval assets will be enough to cope with challenges in the Indo-Pacific. “So the notion of coordinated maritime presence is very efficient, as we are doing it now in the Gulf of Guinea, as we do in the Gulf of Aden, cooperating with India...This is what the EU can bring to the table,” she said.

With the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the EU has “learned the hard way that you cannot only be a soft power and you cannot only rely on the military might of your biggest member states”, she said.

Loiseau described the EU’s relations with China as complex and said member states are not going to isolate, or decouple from, China because of their extensive economic ties. The EU is getting out of its naivety and has started derisking its relations with China, which includes “making sure that when we have strategic assets, we diversify our partners so that we are not dependent on one”, she said.

“We also learned it the hard way with [Russian] oil and gas. Russia had very consistently tried to link us with its own priorities because they were selling cheap oil and gas. Some EU member states considered it was part of their magical growth recipe, until the moment you realise, are you ready to face an aggressive Russia,” Loiseau said.

Read here: European Union unlocks Hungary funding on eve of Ukraine summit

Asked if the Israel-Hamas conflict has shifted Europe’s focus from the Ukraine war, Loiseau said: “That might be the purpose of the October 7 attacks. We know that Iran now is completely aligned with Russia...It would be a mistake to consider there is an imbalance between Russia and Ukraine, and Ukraine will have to yield at some point. Because if we do that, other authoritarian regimes are watching and if Russia has its way in Ukraine, don’t complain that China is even more assertive and aggressive.”

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