Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.
India and EU Concerns:
India-European Union relationship has fallen into a familiar lull – marked by distance and aloofness between the two sides
Recent visit by India’s PM to Brussels (in March) also did not achieve much of what it was supposed to – jump-start the semi-comatose relationship by anchoring a free trade deal nor any specific dates for trade talks were set.
Reasons for such strained relationship
Both the countries have failed to understand each other and have complaints which are totally symmetrical
A fundamental lack of understanding and a deficit of knowledge regarding the potential gains from the relationship, on both sides, has made the India-EU dynamic less productive and more vulnerable.
Concerns such as – Italian marines case and temporary ban, in 2015, of 700 generic drugs from India
Eurozone crisis and more recently, the migrant crisis
Brexit issue – Question of EU’s existence and its future impact
All these above causes has paused the level of activity between India and EU.
Understanding the EU:
Case I: It is said that many countries (including India) have failed to understand or get the EU. The problem is both philosophical and administrative.
EU is a supranational association of countries, which has jurisdiction and decision-making power over its member states in some areas (commercial and competition policy, for instance), joint jurisdiction with members in others (for example, foreign and security policy is coordinated by the EU but the actual framing and execution is left to its members) and no jurisdiction whatsoever in others.
This kind of setup is confusing to many of its external partners (including India).
Case II: However, the problem runs deeper than the world not getting the EU: the EU does not fully get the EU.
The Eurozone crisis and more recently, the migrant crisis, have strained intra-union relationships.
The migrant crisis has also questioned the commitment member states have to the humanistic founding values of modern Europe as well as their ability to coordinate a process to meet their international protection obligations. These crises have tested the EU’s raisons d’être.
The Europe question is being asked explicitly in Britain, which will hold a referendum next month on whether or not to remain in the EU.
The messages of the ‘Leave’ campaign have comprehensively showcased real and imaginary fears, some of which lurk across Europe — migrants taking jobs, a loss of sovereignty, scope creep in Brussels’s jurisdiction, the economy taking a beating, cultural subservience and so forth.
While these centrifugal forces in Europe are unlikely to undo the union, it is only natural that they impact the relationship with India, especially when the latter is already on the ‘does not get the EU’ list.
Case I: The other factor that has impacted the pace of development of Indo-EU relations is the fact that the EU is grappling with how India functions:
The EU establishment is road-mapping the interaction between State and Central governments, how and where policy is formed and implemented.
It is also learning from its member states that doing business directly with State governments in India is often the way forward.
Consequently, the EU has been engaging India partly through partnerships with Indian States.
The Agenda for Action-2020, (which emerged from the March 30 talks in Brussels and sets the strategic agenda between India and EU for the next five years), also emphasises sub-national and business-to-business linkages.
Case II: Additionally, India’s strong bilateral relationships with the parts, i.e. several EU member states, such as France, Germany and the U.K., have affected the relationship with the whole.
In the case of the above three countries the partnership extends to support for India’s bid for permanent membership of the UN Security Council.
These strong partnerships have meant that the India-EU relationship has a tinge of complacency and lack of ownership about it.
The unknown future of EU and its possible impacts:
The outcome of the British referendum will mean one of two things — ‘more EU’ or ‘less EU’.
In future, there is a possibility of other countries holding such referendums (irrespective of the British outcome)
EU’s external partners (including India) are looking for clarity from EU itself about what will be its future and how it goes about its business.
This will have far-reaching implications for intra-EU relationships as well as the EU’s external partnerships.
The way ahead:
India and EU, in order to move its strained relationship forward
Both the sides have to understand each other better, build a more pragmatic and informed partnership
Both sides have to introspect on the benefits of the relationship — monetary and non-monetary, trade and beyond
EU has to clarify its future prospects and how it goes about its business
At a time when India is juggling its relationships with the United States, Russia and China, an India-EU dynamic could be an important element in the country’s multilateral approach to the world
India has to decide on its priority – what is the value of its EU relationship? and How far can this relationship extend beyond trade?
The government should also use this pause to reflect on how it would like to leverage this partnership on the world stage where the EU may not be present as an ubiquitous functional entity just yet but where some or all members are present.
Connecting the dots:
India, EU fail to make headway on free trade agreement talks. What are the causes for this strained relationship between the two? Critically examine.
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