Beyond Boundaries: Europe Travelogue


Last fortnight witnessed India’s Europe Moment. In the concluding week of the April 2022, President of European Commission, Ursula von Der Leynattended Raisina Dialogue at New Delhi as Chief Guest. During her visit, India and the European Union finally decided to launch India-Europe Trade and Technology Council, after discussing the matter in 16 rounds of talks spread over 15 years. This strategic coordination mechanism will facilitate the two partners to address challenges involved in enhancing cooperation in trade, trusted technology transfer and security. United States is the only other country that has similar agreement with the EU. Indian PM Modi visited Germany, Denmark and France from May 2 to 4. Whereas, during Raisin a Dialogue, India interacted with European Union, an entity with 27 member nations, Modi’s visit to Europe was focussed on bilateral exchanges, during the time when Ukraine conflict is raging in the heart of Europe. Outcomes of his visit cannot be viewed from the binary perspective of treaties and memorandums concluded during the event. Perusal of Joint Statements indicate that twin agendas of discussions were Green Energy and Defence Cooperation.India shares deep ties with both middle powers, Germany and France. In fact, PM Modi was visiting both countries together for the second time suggesting that India gives equal importance to the relationship with them. The three days journey was for resetting and refreshing these historical ties for aligning them with the emerging global situation.
Germany- India was amongst the first countries to establish diplomatic relations with Federal Republic of Germany after World War II. Germany provided funds for the establishment of first lot of premium Indian Institutes of Technology. India and Germany share Strategic partnership since 2000 and the Inter-governmental consultations (IGC) mechanism at the level of the heads of states, was launched in 2011. Germany under the leadership of new Chancellor, Olaf Scholz has made two important strategic choices in the wake of Ukraine crisis. First is its decision to significantly increase defence spending and second choice involves considerable reduction in dependence on Russian Energy, over a period. India is also heavily dependent on Russia for Defence Equipment.Sixth ICG was held at Berlin on 02nd Mayin the backdrop of this situation. During the discussions, Germany announced an advance commitment of 10 billion Eurosfor a green partnership.Both countries agreed to a seven-point agenda on Renewable Energy and Sustainable Growth Cooperation and decided to set up a Biennial Ministerial Mechanism to lead these initiatives. They also decided to step up high-tech transfer collaborations and signed a joint declaration of intent for an agreement on exchange of classified information. Germany which currently holds the chair of G 7 invited India to attend their meeting in June. Both the countries reiterated their well-known views about Ukraine Situation.
Denmark- With The combined GDP of over USD 1.6 trillion and per capita income of around $54,000, Nordic Countries (Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland) enjoy robust business partnerships with India. The bilateral trade and services between India and the Nordic countries amounts to USD 13 billion.On May 4 Indian PM, attended the Second Nordic Summit with leaders of Denmark, Finland,Iceland, Norway and Sweden and also held bilateral discussions with them. These discussions were significant because two neutral Nordic countries, i.e.,Sweden and Finland are now considering joining NATO and listening to the security concerns of Norway and Finland, the countries which share the border with Russia would have broadened the Indian perspective of the situation.During Nordic Summit discussions centred around boosting cooperation in the wind and solar energy, pollution control, urban renewal projects and other green projects. Indian PM also repeated commitments made at COP26- “500 gigawatts of non-fossil fuel by 2030, 50% of energy capacity to come from renewable energy by 2030, reduction of 1billion tonnes in projected carbon emissions by 2030, the carbon intensity of India’seconomy to reduce by 45% by 2030 and net zero by 2070”.
France- India and France share strong bilateral partnership. This is the foundation of their strong defence partnership. In 1998, France stood out as a western country that didnot impose sanctions on India for its nuclear tests. It was the first countryto conclude a civil nuclear deal with India after the NSG passed a waiver allowing India toaccess nuclear fuel and technology in 2008. In 2017 France’s support was vital in India’s accession to Wassenaar Arrangement (The Wassenaar Arrangement is a body responsible to contribute to security and stability at the regional and international level by promoting transparency and greater responsibility in the transfer of dual-use goods and technologies, and conventional arms.India was inducted to the Wassenaar Arrangement on 7 December 2017 as the 42nd member. It facilitates India in gaining access to high technology which address the demands of its defence & space sectors). PM Modi concluded his Europe visit by meeting French President Emmanuel Macron, who was re-elected recently. They had a comprehensive discussion on bilateral, regional, and international issues and their cascading effects. Discussion points were covered in thirty paragraph long joint statement.PM Modi called for French investment in making India a green hydrogen hub, and both countries agreed to an integrated approach on supply chains for solar energy production in Europe and Asia. In addition, a statement from French power group EDF after the visit, said it hopes to make progress on the long pending deal for six nuclear power reactors at Jaitapur. Both countries also set up a strategic dialogue to address Space issues; discussions regarding strengthening cyber dialogue and finding more ways for France to invest in building India’s defence industry were also held.
Despite the presence of Ukraine in the room this visit will bear significant impact on the bilateral relations between India and these countries. Europe and India both share the quest for strategic autonomy. India must manage China and Europe, Russia, at regional levels.India has a definite role in both these ventures. Strong India is not only a net security provider in the Indian Ocean Region;it can also become an important element in the Balance of Power matrix with respect to China. This unique advantage should be utilised by India for developing its Comprehensive National Power. India is also aware that route to FTA with EU passes through Brussels and to fulfil this ambition it requires support of maximum members of that grouping. In this context it is also pertinent to take note of the remark made by Dutch Ambassador, he said, “We as Europeans think that you cannot isolate trade from some of the very relevant dimensions connected with trade”. For India this simply translates as –No Tariff-Only trade agreement but other factors like labour and environment to be also included.French support is invaluable for India in UNSC. Nordic countries have achieved very high standards in innovations in many fields including climate Preservation. They also enjoy very high Human Development Indices ratings. India must adopt their relevant best practices to improve in these domains.
Signing off for the week, by quoting Alexis de Tocqueville, “Trade is the natural enemy of all violent passions. Trade loves moderation, delights in compromise, and is most careful to avoid anger. It is patient, supple, and insinuating, only resorting to extreme measures in cases of absolute necessity.”
(Brigadier Rajiv Mahna YSM, SM, VSM is an Indian Army Veteran who has chosen to remain a student for the lifetime.)