EU-India partnership on security and defence deepens

Against the backdrop of the increasingly important EU-India partnership, the European Parliament sent two delegations to Delhi and Mumbai on 18 to 20 December to discuss common values, not least on democracy and upholding the international rules based order, and the deepening of cooperation in two strategic areas, trade and security and defence.

On site, MEPs met with, among others, India’s External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, Speaker of the Lok Sabha (the lower house of India’s parliament) Om Birla, the Secretary of Defence Shri Aramane Giridha, Chief of the Indian Defence Staff, General Anil Chauhan, as well as members of the Defence Committee of the Lok Sabha, and representatives of the defence industry and civil society.

In their meetings, MEPs said that in an unstable environment where authoritative regimes do not hesitate to pressure democracies through hybrid warfare or economic leverage, the EU and India are reducing their dependency on external actors.

Both powers are pursuing comparable strategies of self-reliance and open strategic autonomy, where strengthening European and Indian domestic supply chains can be achieved at the same time as the deepening of cooperation, especially in the fields of connectivity and technological innovation.

As trading powers, maritime policy is a strategic link between Europe and India, MEPs said.

Deepening the EU-India partnership on security, in particular maritime security, would improve both parties’ ability to ensure open and free navigation, which is a vital source of growth and prosperity for Europe and the Indo-Pacific.

The EU is also stepping up its capabilities in this area, through initiatives such as the Coordinated Maritime Presences, ESIWA and CRIMARIO projects, which it could bring to the table in its cooperation with India.

The current tensions in the Red Sea were discussed as an additional matter of concern.

MEPs said that, as maritime and trading powers, the EU and India have a strong common interest to ensure the freedom of the seas is not undermined by the attacks in the Red Sea.

The delegations also expressed their support for the progress made by the EU-India dialogue on security and defence with important discussions on cyber-security, counter terrorism and non-proliferation as well as step-by-step increases in practical cooperation on maritime security, including joint operations and naval exercises, and defence industrial cooperation between European and Indian defence companies.

MEPs also welcomed the appointment of the EU’s first ever defence attaché in the EU delegation in Delhi as an important sign of the EU’s commitment to working with the Indian defence community.

In the current geopolitical climate, it is more important than ever for the EU to deepen its cooperation on security and defence, including by setting a date in the near future for the second EU-India security and defence dialogue.