Monday

16th Oct 2017

Opinion

Brussels and Delhi's shared interests in the Indian Ocean

  • The Indian Navy. The EU and India must first move from an intermittent towards strategic cooperation. (Photo: Michael Scalet)

Whether due to the wealth of its natural resources, the centrality of its sea lines of communication for trade, or its propensity for conflict and natural calamities, the Indian Ocean is critical for the future of Europe and India.

For too long, however, biased perceptions have hindered EU-India cooperation in this region, particularly in the Western Indian Ocean, which they share as an extended neighbourhood. New Delhi saw the EU as a strategic non-entity and thus irrelevant to security challenges beyond its borders.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Similarly, Europeans saw India to be hesitant or unable to take on a leadership role beyond South Asia, and unwilling to work in partnership with other nations.

Not surprisingly, while in practice Europeans and Indians are now both working towards similar objectives, including a rules-based order, cooperative multilateralism, and sustainable growth and stability in the Indian Ocean region, they have persistently failed to pursue these interests together.

Against the background of a more assertive and powerful China and a changing security architecture, the EU and India now face an opportunity to update mutual perceptions by aligning their initiatives, which are far more congruent and complementary than usually expected.

Gulf of Aden

To do so, the EU and India must first move from an intermittent towards strategic cooperation. Indian and European navies have operated side by side in the Gulf of Aden to counter piracy but such ad hoc coordination must now give way to cooperation across different domains, beyond just patrolling.

Indian and European naval forces must institutionalize their engagements, for example through a regular dialogue to share threat assessments in the Indian Ocean region, and also consider regularly holding a joint naval exercise between EU NAVFOR and the Indian Navy, which would be the first of its kind.

Second, Brussels and New Delhi should focus on leveraging their expertise in non-traditional security domains, for example by exchanging best practices, promoting joint exercises, and taking coordinated action on issues relating to Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR).

This could include disaster mitigation and expatriate evacuation operations, as well as issues relating to the preemption of environmental degradation and monitoring migration. Given the risks of instability in the Gulf and the larger Middle East regions, including in Afghanistan, the EU and India should foster a close dialogue on preempting and managing refugee flows.

Third, on the hard security front, European and Indian defense agencies must study opportunities to jointly develop and transfer naval equipment. Congruent with the EU’s CRIMARIO project, an EU project on maritime security in the Indian Ocean, in recent years India has sanctioned radar systems, coast guard launches, and naval reconnaissance aircrafts to Mauritius, the Seychelles and other states in the region.

Besides delivering such assets separately, Delhi and Brussels should develop channels to coordinate efforts, for example through a regular security dialogue on the Indian Ocean region. To expand the capacity of small island states, they should also jointly train coast guard and naval personnel, and partner in the development of defence technologies that increase maritime domain awareness.

Fourth, the EU and India must cooperate to invest in infrastructure to connect the Indian Ocean region and strengthen links between Mozambique, Mauritius and Malaysia. The EU’s Blue Growth Initiative, which seeks to harness maritime wealth, corresponds with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for India to embrace a “Blue Revolution.”

With reference to the International Maritime Organization’s 2017 Maritime Day theme, “Connecting Ships, Ports and People,” the EU and India should develop a strategic plan that fosters regional integration across the Indian Ocean.

Rules-based order

Finally, European and Indian initiatives must leverage their shared normative commitment to strengthen the rules-based order. Reflecting their democratic nature, the EU and India have dedicated vast resources to institutionalize cooperation in the Indian Ocean region.

Striking a contrast with China’s approach, Brussels and New Delhi should emphasize the rule of international law for governing the Indian Ocean as a global commons, support the centrality of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to maritime conflict resolution, and engage in a dialogue on existing legal mechanisms to settle disputes peacefully.

At the institutional level, the Indian government should ensure that the EU becomes a partner member of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) and is involved in the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS), while the EU, in turn, could facilitate India’s engagement with the IOC and other initiatives on the East African littoral region.

Whether on the narrow naval security front or on the wider, multilateral, normative and economic fronts, Brussels and New Delhi must take further steps to actualize the potential for cooperation and joint action. Greater Indo-European convergence and engagement will help to ensure that the Indian Ocean region can attain sustainable growth and stability through a rules-based order.

Constantino Xavier is a fellow, and Darshana M. Baruah a research analyst at Carnegie India. This article is based on their co-authored policy brief “Brussels and Delhi: Converging Interests in the Indian Ocean”, in partnership with the Global Public Policy Institute, under the EU India Think Tanks Twinning Initiative.

Analysis

EU and India must converge in Kabul

As the US threatens to withdraw, the EU and India will have to step up and take on a leading role in support of Afghanistan.

EU-India: reincarnation of a strategic partnership

Although the ultimate panacea of the long-stalled EU-India free trade agreement continues to remain elusive, Wednesday's summit in Brussels managed to relaunch the long-static strategic partnership.

Left flirting with antisemitism in EU parliament

It is outrageous that Leila Khaled, a member of a group listed by the EU as a terrorist organisation, was given a platform in the EU parliament, a body representing democracy and peaceful cooperation.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Should Seek Concrete Commitments From Azerbaijan at Human Rights Dialogue
  2. European Jewish CongressEJC Calls for New Austrian Government to Exclude Extremist Freedom Party
  3. CES - Silicones EuropeIn Healthcare, Silicones Are the Frontrunner. And That's a Good Thing!
  4. EU2017EEEuropean Space Week 2017 in Tallinn from November 3-9. Register Now!
  5. European Entrepreneurs CEA-PMEMobiliseSME Exchange Programme Open Doors for 400 Companies Across Europe
  6. CECEE-Privacy Regulation – Hands off M2M Communication!
  7. ILGA-EuropeHealth4LGBTI: Reducing Health Inequalities Experienced by LGBTI People
  8. EU2017EEEHealth: A Tool for More Equal Health
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism a Key Driver for Job Creation and Enhanced Competitiveness
  10. CECENon-Harmonised Homologation of Mobile Machinery Costs € 90 Million per Year
  11. ILGA-EuropeMass Detention of Azeri LGBTI People - the LGBTI Community Urgently Needs Your Support
  12. European Free AllianceCatalans Have Won the Right to Have an Independent State

Latest News

  1. Malta shocked after car bomb kills crusading journalist
  2. Spanish and Catalan leaders continue stand-off
  3. May pleads for more as EU makes Brexit gesture
  4. EU united in backing Iran deal, after Trump criticisms
  5. 'Think of the patients!' cry warring EMA-host cities
  6. In Iceland: Europe woos Arctic allies
  7. Austrian voters reject liberal pro-EU status quo
  8. Turkey urges EU not to break off ties

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ECR GroupBrexit: Delaying the Start of Negotiations Is Not a Solution
  2. EU2017EEPM Ratas in Poland: "We Enjoy the Fruits of European Cooperation Thanks to Solidarity"
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina and UK Discuss Deepening of Global Comprehensive Strategic Partnership
  4. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceEHLA Joins Commissioners Navracsics, Andriukaitis and Hogan at EU Week of Sport
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council Representative Office Opens in Brussels to Foster Better Cooperation
  6. UNICEFSocial Protection in the Contexts of Fragility & Forced Displacement
  7. CESIJoin CESI@Noon on October 18 and Debate On: 'European Defence Union: What Next?'
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Innovation House Opens in New York to Support Start-Ups
  9. ILGA EuropeInternational Attention Must Focus on LGBTI People in Azerbaijan After Police Raids
  10. European Jewish CongressStrong Results of Far Right AfD Party a Great Concern for Germans and European Jews
  11. EU2017EEEU Finance Ministers Agreed to Develop New Digital Taxation Rules
  12. Mission of China to the EUGermany Stands Ready to Deepen Cooperation With China