At the 21st IISS Fullerton Lecture in Singapore in 2015, Foreign Secretary, Dr. S. Jaishankar, stated that ‘India welcomes the growing reality of a multi-polar world, as it does, of a multi-polar Asia. We, therefore, want to build our bilateral relationships with all major players, confident that progress in one account opens up possibilities in others.’ This statement reflects the BJP-led government’s commitment to widen India’s diplomatic footprint on the global stage and engage with a wide range of issues which includes security cooperation.
Although India’s strategic security partnership with the EU dates back to 2004, it was only after the India-EU Summit in March 2016 that the
partnership has shown signs of moving forward. Other than mutually agreeing on issues like nuclear non-proliferation, counter-terrorism and maritime security, both, India and the EU shares concerns over countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and regions like West Asia. In this regard, the topics that would be elaborated under this session are:
1.1. Maritime security
The opportunities for cooperation vis-à-vis maritime security between the EU and India are manifold, especially in the Indian Ocean region. Piracy, human and drug trafficking and maritime terrorism are some of the non-conventional security challenges that both sides are grappling with in the Indian Ocean region. Between 2008 and 2012, scores of cargo vessels carrying chemicals, oil and military equipment were attacked by Somalian pirates off the Horn of Africa. This strategic area which includes the Gulf of Aden, the Western Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea makes for an important commercial route for over 20,000 cargo vessels every year.
About 30 percent of European and $110 billion worth of Indian trade transits annually through the Gulf of Aden. Moreover, the Gulf region remains a vital source of oil and gas imports for India and the EU. It is therefore very important for both sides to maintain and secure these crucial Sea Lanes of Communication (SLOCs). The European Naval Force Somalia (EU NAVFOR), which was launched in 2008, has been successful in curbing the growing menace of piracy in the region. EUCAP Somalia and EU CRIMARIO are the other EU led and financed security initiatives in the Indian Ocean region.
India’s growing strategic geo-political role, both regionally and globally, finds resonance in its revised 2015 Maritime Doctrine-Ensuring Secure Seas: Indian Maritime Security Strategy. India sees itself as a “net security provider” in the region. In this regard, the strategy addresses the evolving security dynamics in the Indian Ocean region and clearly delineates the role of the Indian Navy. The Red Sea, the Gulf of Oman and their littoral regions, South West Indian Ocean including IOR nations therein and East Coast of Africa littoral regions are now of primary interest for India’s maritime security.
Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) and Search and Rescue (SAR) are other areas for more active cooperation between India and the EU. Disaster preparedness, particularly with regard to advanced early warning systems for tsunamis and cyclones and infrastructure that is created for disaster-prone zones, is an area for enhanced partnership between the two sides.
Synergies between the EU-led “Blue Growth Strategy” and the Indian “Blue Revolution” initiative could be pursued to curb illegal fishing and promote coastal economies based on principles of sustainable development.
The apparent synergies between the two actors could be brought together through various multilateral fora like the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS), a multilateral forum that was established in 2012 at the initiative of the Indian Navy, and the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), among others.
1.2. Counter-terrorism and cyber-security
India and the EU have both been subject to violent terrorist attacks. The joint declaration that resulted from the 2016 India-EU Summit clearly delineates potential areas of cooperation between the two sides with regard to countering terrorism. While the two sides already cooperate on issues like terror-financing and designating terror groups, there are areas that they could work together on. In the recent past, the EU, particularly countries like France, Belgium and Germany, have had to grapple with the challenge of Islamic militancy and the rise of radicalization. Albeit limited at present, there are valid concerns about growing radicalization in India as well.
The statement issued from the recently concluded India-EU Dialogue on Counter-Terrorism in New Delhi reiterated the benefits for both sides from information- and intelligence-sharing as well as cooperation to counter the menace of on-line recruitment of youth by terrorist organizations. Devising new methods and technologies would bolster the larger effort of ensuring cyber-security.
Both India and the EU lend support to UN-led initiatives and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
1.3. Energy security
In 2004, the India-EU Energy Panel was established to address challenges that both the sides face with regard to energy security. The panel has been mandated to promote cooperation between the two sides to ensure the security of petrochemical supplies and to maintain the stability of oil prices.
West Asia, particularly Saudi Arabia, Iran and Qatar, remains the major supplier of oil and gas for both India and the EU. In this regard, political stability in the region is crucial for both sides. Apart from strengthening cooperation to promote the development of connectivity- infrastructure and the security of sea lines of communication, India and the EU could also explore possibilities to jointly develop mechanisms for dialogue and confidence-building measures among the principal regional players to promote security and stability in the West Asian region.
1.4. Non proliferation
The European response to India’s nuclear tests in 1998 was not homogenous. While countries like Germany, Denmark and Sweden suspended development assistance programmes, others like France and Spain abstained from taking any concrete measures against India. The EU had, then, urged both India and Pakistan to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. In 2003 the EU had stated that weapons of mass destruction are ‘potentially the greatest threat to our security’ and had called for the management of issues related to nuclear proliferation within its multilateral security governance framework.
In the context of the rising threat of weapons of mass destruction and its linkages with global terrorism, India and the EU would need to work together to address proliferation challenges while ensuring seamless international cooperation vis-à-vis issues related to materials, technology and equipment for peaceful purposes. India has subscribed to the Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (HCoC) and has demonstrated deep engagement with the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG), the Australia Group and the Wassenaar Arrangement.
Against the backdrop of changing global and regional, particularly South Asian, geopolitics and India’s growing importance on the world stage, cooperation with regard to proliferation-related issues becomes all the more significant.