CONTEXT : The Indo-Pacific region has been notable with the U.S.-China strategic contestation and the speedy development of the Quad (Australia, Japan, India and the U.S.) as well as AUKUS [comprising Australia, the U.K. and the U.S.]
Europe’s connection with Asia is old, and multifaceted.
ASIA carries a lot of global significance, and it is evident from the fact that since 2018, France, the Netherlands, Germany and the U.K. have announced their different policies towards the Indo-Pacific region.
The following developments may be bit disturbing for EU :-
China’s aggressiveness along the periphery of EU
Economic consolidation through RCEP
The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership
2 developments of EU are Notable :
Announcement by the Council of the European Union of its initial policy conclusions in April.
The unveiling of the EU strategy for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific on September 16.
EU is already a partner with the followings:
The EU and the Indo-Pacific are “natural partner regions”
The EU is a significant player in the Indian Ocean littoral states
The Pacific Island states
EU must engage across a wide spectrum with all the current partners and also add others in the fold.
Future progress can be in the following :-
To defend the “rules-based international order”
Promote a level-playing field for trade and investment
Sustainable Development Goals
Support “truly inclusive policy-making” encompassing the civil society and the private sector
Protect human rights and democracy
The policy document also says cooperation will be strengthened in the following :-
Sustainable and inclusive prosperity
Digital governance and partnerships
Security and defence
The EU thus promises to focus on the security and development dimensions of its relationship.
But the EU’s security and defence capabilities are quite limited, as compared to the U.S. and China. Hence it has to ally with –
France ( having sizeable assets and linkages with the Indo-Pacific)
The U.K. (as it expand its role in Asia as part of its ‘Global Britain’ strategy)
As a major economic power, the EU has an excellent chance of success in its trade negotiations with :-
With the East African Community
In forging fisheries agreements and green alliances with interested partners to fight climate change.
In lieu of all this, what EU must provide in return ?
EU must share its financial resources and new technologies with partner-countries.
Approach of EU w.r.t. China and India –
In EU also,
Many states view China as a great economic opportunity
Others are acutely conscious of the China challenge
The risks being faced the EU-
Russia is on China’s side
The EU should cooperate with the Quad
AUKUS, already bothered for France
An attempt by a part of the western alliance to bolster naval and technological facilities to deal with China cannot are welcome steps.
India’s pivotal position in the region necessitates a closer India-EU partnership.
The India-EU Leaders’ Meeting on May 8, followed by the External Affairs Minister’s Gymnich meeting in Slovenia with the EU foreign ministers on September 3, were designed to “foster new synergies”.
EU needs is an internally coordinated approach.
Some steps needed are :-
Early conclusion of an ambitious and comprehensive trade agreement
A standalone investment protection agreement
Cooperation in Industry 4.0 technologies
Consolidating and upgrading defence ties with France, Germany and the U.K.
The EU can create a vantage position for itself in the Indo-Pacific by being more open, more confident with China, and more cooperative with India.