Tuesday, 6 May 2014

India, a strategic partner for the EU?

After  the Cold War EU defense budgets declined and with it it’s military hardware. EU maritime forces are at an all-time low but they still have to perform a wide array of tasks like:
·       Maritime interventions near the African continent, either being piracy at Somalia or maritime cooperation between African countries and the EU or intervention in conflicts.
·       A rapidly changing maritime balance of powers in the Mediterranean Sea with Turkey and Algeria as rising maritime powers, as well as unresolved conflicts such as the Syrian civil war and the Palastine conflict.
·        A more assertive Russia that is increasing its naval capabilities in both numbers and technology. Combined with the US pivot towards Asia this would leave EU on its own to counter Russia and protect the North Atlantic trade between the EU and the USA.
EU maritime forces thus have a wide array of tasks to perform. Member states such as the United Kingdom and France are also looking towards the Indian Ocean where they still have several colonies like the island of La Réunion and Mayotte. At the same time the EU is very dependent on trade with Asia and these trade lines run through the Indian Ocean.
There are a wide array of potential security threats to our trade lines. Piracy around the Horn of Africa is just one example. An Iranian blockade of the Strait of Hormuz would be devastating to the EU’s energy supply. Piracy in the Strait of Malacca will have the same effects for EU trade as piracy around the Horn of Africa.
There is a need for a EU maritime presence in the Indian Ocean but given the fact that the EU maritime forces are at an all-time low and with other theaters demanding attention as well, the EU has few maritime assets I can deploy in this region. A maritime partnership would therefore be in the EU’s best interests. Of all the surrounding maritime powers, either already established or on the rise, only India would make a good partner.

The Indian navy already has lots of experience and is expanding its navy even further. It has shown on several occasions, either in international training exercises or in the anti-piracy operation in the Gulf of Aden, that it can cooperate and integrate its naval forces with other countries.
Another advantage is India’s strategic location as the subcontinent sits in the middle of the Indian Ocean. This allows India to respond to  a lot of potential security threats such as piracy in the Gulf of Aden, a possible blockade by Iran of the Strait of Hormuz, operating along the east coast of Africa or intervening in the Strait of Malacca. India also dominates the EU’s vital trading routes from and towards Asia. India would be a vital partner that can act to a wide array of crises and conflicts in the Indian ocean region on behalf of the EU. This would allow the EU to focus the majority of its naval forces in other theaters.
Ties between India and the EU are generally perceived as good. Several EU member states have defense contracts with the Indian Army. France for example is delivering Raphale aircraft to India in 2016. As India is an upcoming regional power with a lot of economic potential a collaboration between the EU on both a military and economic level would be in the interests of both nations.
Although India makes for a logical case for a maritime partnership there are some downsides.

First, siding with India would anger China as both countries have bad relations with each other. Since most of our trade comes from China this could have  long lasting and far going economic consequences. At the same time it would cause bad relations with Pakistan as both India and Pakistan have bad relations because of the border region of Kashmir that both countries claim.
And at last there is the Russian angle. India tends to buy its military hardware from pretty much everyone who can deliver it. Still, it tends to buy most of its equipment from Russia and both countries are known to collaborate on military research. The BrahMos supersonic cruise missile was a joint Indian-Russian development. India’s aircraft carrier, the Vikramaditya, used to be the former Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier of the Soviet/Russian Navy. So there is a risk that military technology  from the EU given to India could end up in Russian hands and from there on out in Chinese hands.
In conclusion we could say the a maritime cooperation with the Indian navy would be in the best interests for the EU on a maritime level. It allows the EU to use the few maritime assets it has in other theaters that are equally important. On the downside it would alienate the EU from China, its biggest economic partner and possibly lead to a spillover of military technology to Russia.

No comments:

Post a Comment