India-EU: A Natural Alliance | By Vikrant Sharma

India-EU: A Natural Alliance 

By Vikrant Sharma 

Founder-Editor, The Global Telescope 


On 15th July 2020, India and EU held a virtual summit that saw discussions on healthcare cooperation, environmental commitments, data privacy and protection, the threat of terrorism and radicalisation, increased maritime cooperation, human rights (including gender equality and women empowerment), and civil nuclear cooperation. 

India and EU might seem unlikely companions. European Union’s problems seem very different from the ones India faces. While France, Germany, Spain and Portugal (all of them members of the European Union) were colonisers over the past few centuries and made a lot of fortune as a result, India was a British colony that suffered terribly at the hands of colonisers and lost a mind-boggling amount of its pre-British era fortune.

But if you dig a little deeper, the India-EU alliance makes a whole lot of sense. India is a quasi-federal union of states that divides power between the state governments and the union government. EU was envisioned as a federal structure, and any collective achievement of the bloc is seen as a move towards a successful collaboration that will lead to an increasingly federal setup (though I admit that the euro-sceptics in Brussels would be appalled at reading this). Based on principle and collaboration, the EU represents an effort to increase global cooperation towards a more equal and peaceful world. And yes, you might have guessed by now- I quite like the EU.

European Union sees itself as a body that respects and protects human rights. Member states have to follow rule of law and maintain the rights of their population. It has increasingly moved towards forming a uniform foreign policy for the bloc, even though individual states (especially the more powerful ones) often take individual stands on global matters too. India, in comparison, has been the largest experiment in democracy of the past century. A country ruled by a foreign power for almost two centuries, born in the bloodshed of partition, was able to prove the sceptics wrong and establish the largest democracy in the history of the world. The biggest testament to Indian democracy is the fact that it has never been overthrown and has emerged as a force in its own right. India has maintained democracy and rule of law ever since it emerged on the global stage as an independent sovereign.

This ice cream mix of the belief in a federal power structure with a focus on rule of law and protection of basic human rights is something that is common to India as well as the European Union.

If taken as a collective bloc, European Union is the largest trading partner of India accounting for 80 Billion in trade in 2019 (11.1% of India’s total trade), which is on par with the USA and a tad more than India’s trade with China. What’s more, the trade with EU is remarkably healthy too, with no major deficit on either side. EU is also the largest source for FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) in India, while India’s investments in EU are roughly €50 Billion.

A crucial point of common concern for India and EU is terrorism. While India faces a threat of terrorism from just across the border, Europe faces a threat of terrorism from the tumultuous Middle East. Europe is an easy target for terror organisations like ISIS to recruit and groom individuals who can threaten the internal security of any country within the European Union, as is evident from the Paris and Brussels terror attacks within the last few years. India has been advocating the formation of a global convention against terror that lays out a multilateral system under the UN to combat a threat that so many countries face today. European Union holds the power to play a significant role in this if it so chooses, which will help its position in the fight against radicalisation and terror.

European Parliament 'Paul Henri-Spaak' Building, Brussels, Belgium | Photo by Guillaume Périgois on Unsplash

There are holes in my argument, yes. Allow me to fill some of them in. Some in EU have raised the issue of Kashmir and apparent violation of human rights in the region. What I find is that most people who do so sitting thousands of miles away tend to think of the situation in a vacuum. Kashmir is an integral part of India that has parts of it occupied by Pakistan and China. Pakistan is known to sponsor terror in the region that has led to decades of instability. India has countered this brazen aggression to protect its sovereignty. I agree that, as a result, the ones who suffer the most are the common citizens of Kashmir, as well as the army men who lose their life protecting that beautiful land. To blame the Indian government and army in this situation would be terrible injustice.

European Union itself is not perfect. It has human rights issues related to migrants arriving from the middle east, as well as migrants within the EU who engage in seasonal work. No country or group is perfect. What the responsible ones can do is try their best to make it better, which I believe in earnest India as well as the EU do.

The EU blossomed under the global liberal order, and India went through many economic reforms during this time that helped transform it into the global powerhouse it is today. But as China emerges to challenge this order, and with the West reluctant to woo Russia (barring Germany which has decided to go ahead with an oil pipeline from Russia despite objections from USA), it is a real possibility that the world is heading towards an increasingly uncertain era. EU and India, if they play their cards well, can help each other during this time as responsible powers that believe in peace and cooperation.

EU has been uneasy with the question of China over the last two months, hinting disapproval but not taking harsh steps. It has pursued an economic cooperation deal with China, but fault lines within the partnership are quite clear. The relationship between the two is in low spirits. India can prove to be a far more reliable economic partner in future, especially given the healthy trade relation the two powers share now.

India and EU are two global forces that can seem very disconnected, each with their own issues and perspectives. But if someone was to go-over the relationship and its possibilities with a fine-toothed comb, I believe they would find it has much to offer.



Author: The force behind the blog, Vikrant Sharma is the Founder-Editor of The Global Telescope. A student of law, he is deeply passionate about history, political science, public international law, international relations, and diplomacy.


All views presented in the article belong solely to the writer. The editor does not support or condemn the views, and neither does The Global Telescope. The Global Telescope remains impartial and promotes every individual's right to freedom of speech and expression while not holding any responsibility for the views presented whatsoever.


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