India and the European Union
- Rajendra K. JainRajendra K. JainCentre for European Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University
India took a keen interest in the nascent European Economic Community (EEC) and was acutely concerned about the adverse implications of the British application for membership. New Delhi was one of the first developing countries to establish diplomatic relations with the EEC and the first non-associate member developing country to sign a commercial cooperation agreement. During the Cold War, relations with India were of marginal interest for Brussels, especially as South Asia was traditionally considered a British domain and a complex region beset with intractable problems. In the early 1990s, India sought an upgraded political dialogue with the EU as the West moved up in its foreign policy calculus as a market, source of technology, and foreign direct investment. Brussels no longer had to look at India through the prism of Cold War equations. India had in fact become more interesting because of its economic reforms and liberalization policies.
Recognition of India’s growing stature and influence regionally and globally, growing economic interest in a rapidly and consistently growing economy, acquisition of nuclear weapons, steadily improving relations with the United States, and acceptance of India as a potential global player led the European Union to launch in 2005 a strategic partnership with India. India and the European Union have a multilayered institutional architecture with annual summits (since 2000), a Joint Commission, and over 30 sectoral dialogues encompassing political, security, economic, cultural dimensions, some of which still need to acquire a more operational character.
Even in 2020 the India–EU relationship continues to be basically driven by trade and economic relations though it now encompasses diverse areas including climate change, energy, science and technology, migration and mobility. The European Union is India’s biggest trade partner and a major source of technology, foreign direct investments, and a major destination for Indian investment overseas. In the 2010s, the European Union and Member States are becoming active developmental partners in the realization of key flagship programs like Clean India, Smart Cities, renewable energy, skills and technology. Growing convergence at the fourteenth India–EU summit (October 2017) reflected convergence on important global issues like a rule-based international order as well as on the Iran nuclear deal, the Paris climate change treaty, Myanmar and the North Korean imbroglio. The India Strategy Paper 3.0—“Elements for an EU Strategy on India” (2018)—outlines an ambitious roadmap for the 2020s to more meaningfully engage India in building a multifaceted strategic partnership with India.