How the world views Europe: Rajendra K Jain on India


As part of our 'Reinvention of Europe' project, ECFR co-organised* a conference in Prague to examine how Europe is seen by other important global powers. Six eminent academics and thinkers gave their thoughts from the viewpoint of China, Turkey, India, Brazil, Japan and Russia. I recorded interviews with all six, which are being published as podcasts, and also gathering up the abstracts of the papers that each one presented in this short series of blog posts.

This second post looks at the Europe from the point of view of India, with Rajendra K Jain of Jawaharlal University in New Delhi. Here is an outline of his thoughts:

With the end of the Cold War, Europe’s importance in India’s foreign policy calculus increased enormously as the West was deemed vital as a market, and for foreign direct investment, advanced technology as well as defence equipment and civil nuclear cooperation. Most stakeholders feel that Europe lacks geopolitical coherence in acting as a credible power owing to the inherent constraints of the Common Foreign and Security Policy in a heterogeneous EU of 27 member states.

Despite a strategic partnership, India and the European Union have not been able to transform shared values into shared interests and shared priorities because of a big disconnect in world-views, mindsets and practical agendas. These fundamental differences will remain because the two are at different levels of development, come from two different geo-political milieus and have different geographical and geopolitical priorities.

The Indian elite’s perception of Europe has been essentially conditioned by the Anglo-Saxon media. This has resulted in a rather fragmented and partial view of Europe since it tended to reinforce and sustain traditional stereotypical images and clichés. For the great majority of Indians, most of Europe is a strange land, an exotic place for tourism, to which only a privileged layer of society had had access. Indian elites perceive Europe as an emerging power, but not as a cohesive foreign policy actor. Political, business and media elites regard the EU as a global economic giant, which does not act as an independent and decisive actor. The EU is not seen so much as a military power and is relatively invisible as a development aid actor in India. The recent Eurozone crisis has tended to reinforce images of a declining Europe. Most educated Indians have tended to feel that multiculturalism does not seem to be working in Europe, and that European societies have not been able to meaningfully integrate non-Western ethnic minorities, especially Muslims.

India advocates an open, inclusive and democratic international economic and financial system. On global governance, Indian stakeholders tend to perceive Europe as a conservative force and a staunch defender of the present order. Europe is overrepresented in international institutions and is no hurry to end this. India does not seem too keen to join EU-run institutions or clubs for minimal gain or misplaced prestige, which would require it to share additional responsibilities without any perceptible and tangible gains from joining them.

Postmodernist Europe is increasingly becoming a “normative power” – a proactive norms entrepreneur and exporter seeking to formulate and institutionalise social, economic and ideological standards of behaviour and norms within the international community. The new big kids on the block have no difficulty with a rule-based world order, but what they want is “a different set of rules”. Unlike in the past, India is determined to play an active interest in the framing of new rules so that they reflect and protect the needs and aspirations of one sixth of humanity.

On most issues of substance (WMD, terrorism, maritime security, piracy, etc) India’s broad interests as a rising power are consonant with Europe. Cooperative relations will gradually and incrementally grow despite differences over specific issues. There is considerable mutual long-term interest in areas like scientific and technological cooperation, the movement of skilled persons, and a widening and deepening of civil society dialogue. However, disparate priorities and lack of shared interests will continue to limit cooperation on many political and security issues between India and Europe.

Click here for China's view of Europe with Zhimin Chen - "over the past few years, the Chinese have begun to realise that their views of the EU have also involved wishful thinking."

Click for Turkey's view with Atila Eralp - "Has Turkey’s relationship with the EU departed from being seen as a normative goal or strategic vision, into a framework for a useful but ‘just another’ partnership in international relations?"

Click here for Japan's view, with Ryo Oshiba - "In Japan there is the notion of 'the lost two decades', and a debate on whether Japan is a global player or a middle power. A similar debate applies to Europe."

Click here for Russia's view, with Sergei Utkin - "the joint potential of the EU and Russia is regarded as essential in building sustainable alternatives to scenarios of Europe’s inevitable decline in the international arena."

* Thanks are due to the other co-organisers of the conference in Prague, the Insitute of International Relations, Prague, and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung


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