South Asian Scan Issue 3 – Oceanic Opportunity: Maritime Cooperation Between India And Europe
09 October 2019
India and Europe share a common vested interest in maritime security, especially within the context of the Indian Ocean, which brings India and the European Union (EU) physically closer, thanks to the French overseas territory of La Réunion, an outermost part of the EU. Over the years, formal security cooperation between India and various European actors, including the EU has been slow to emerge. However, as a long-time provider of maritime security for the international sea lines of communication (SLOC), India’s naval diplomacy and humanitarian and disaster relief (HADR) missions have provided a public good that has also benefitted European markets, businesses and citizens, enabling the global traffic of trade, people and energy flows that criss-crosses the Indian Ocean.
The EU on the other hand, is a more recent maritime security actor, principally active within the Horn of Africa and the wider Western Indian Ocean, an area of particular security interest to India. Both India and the EU, especially in the context of global economic and political uncertainties, have expressed the strategic goal to enhance maritime activities and capacity. Official pronouncements have identified the importance of building on established networks and cumulative operational expertise but also note the urgent need to enhance cooperation with partners. For India and the EU, which do not regard each other as strategic competitors and in fact hold in common the ideal of strategic autonomy as a guiding principle for foreign policy decisions, the opportunity for convergence on maritime issues, could not be greater.
The paper is divided into four parts, the first of which examines institutional arrangements and ideas that in the past may have prevented convergence but which could act as the framework for renewed efforts at security cooperation. Part two and three explore the areas where India and the EU have expertise as maritime security providers and the limited collaboration and coordination that has occurred to date in the realms of anti-piracy and HADR operations. Finally, the implications for maritime order and governance, as both actors express and pursue a growing ambit of strategic ambitions are considered.