New Delhi: In yet another setback for China, the 27-member European Union (EU) came out with its own Indo-Pacific strategy earlier this month after much deliberations. According to Ugo Astuto, ambassador of EU to India, the EU has come out with its strategy now in order to “reinforce its strategic focus, presence and action” in the region.
Speaking to ThePrint, Astuto said the EU is the topmost investor and development assistance provider, and among the biggest traders, in the Indo-Pacific region, stretching from the East Coast of Africa to the Pacific Island States. The region is also a crucial manufacturing hub for the world that is central to global value chains and is home to 60 per cent of the world’s population and responsible for two/thirds of global economic growth.
“Against this background, the EU has decided to reinforce its strategic focus, presence and action in the Indo-Pacific, with the aim of contributing to the stability, security, prosperity and sustainable development of the region, based on the promotion of democracy, rule of law, human rights and international law,” Astuto told ThePrint in an interview.
On whether coming out with this strategy will alter the EU’s relationship with China, the envoy said, “The EU strategy for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific is consistent with the EU’s 2019 Strategic Outlook on China. It is pragmatic, flexible and multi-faceted, allowing the EU to adapt and build its cooperation where it can find common ground, while upholding its interests and values. Thus, there continue to be opportunities for cooperation with China in such areas as climate change and other specific policy areas, based on mutual interest.”
India and the EU are expected to discuss the Indo-Pacific strategy and how to integrate both sides further under this strategic framework as countries begin to stand up against China’s increasing belligerent stance in the maritime domain, diplomatic sources told ThePrint.
This will be discussed during the upcoming India-EU Summit, which is likely to take place virtually on 8 May.
‘Determined to play role in security of Indo-Pacific region’
While some member countries of the EU, such as France, Germany and the Netherlands, had come out with their respective Indo-Pacific policies earlier — in May 2018, September 2020 and November 2020, respectively — Brussels came out with its own Indo-Pacific strategic policy earlier this month, keeping in mind “intense geopolitical competition adding to increasing tensions on trade and supply chains as well as in technological, political and security areas,” according to a statement issued by the Council of European Union.
The EU will continue to develop partnerships in the areas of security and defence, including to address maritime security, malicious cyber activities, disinformation, emerging technologies, terrorism, and organised crime, the statement added.
Earlier this month, Charles Michel, president of the European Council, had said at the Raisina Dialogue 2021 that “The EU is not just an economic partner — we are also determined to play our role in the security of the Indo-Pacific region. Some 40 per cent of our trade passes through the Indian Ocean. So, we have a strong interest in maritime security in the region.”
He added: “Our friendship, and partnership with India, is a cornerstone of our geopolitical strategy. We are determined to further develop the ties between our peoples. It is in our common interest to show that the democratic and open model is the most powerful one to address the challenges of the world.”
External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar had also said at the same event that the Indo-Pacific initiative is a “return to history … It reflects a more contemporary world. It is actually overcoming the Cold War, not reinforcing it”.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)