Council of the European Union approved an Indo Pacific Strategy becoming another major international group to show interest in this vital oceanic belt in the larger Asia Pacific region that has gained salience due to the rise of China which is perceived as, “different,” than the rest.
European Union (EU) Council justifies strategic significance of the Indo Pacific due to, “intense geopolitical competition adding to increasing tensions on trade and supply chains as well as in technological, political and security areas”.
In addition, “universality of human rights is also being challenged. These developments increasingly threaten the stability and security of the region and beyond, directly impacting on the EU’s interests”.
As one of the largest trading blocs indeed developments in the Indo Pacific do have profound influence on EU economic interests to protect which security deployments are now considered inevitable. While the strategy mainly is about soft elements of power importantly managing the [post] COVID 19 era, building climate change, green energy, technology and 5 G networks the Strategy also outlines some core elements of security to include maritime, counter terrorism, cyber and so on.
Published as EU Strategy for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific - Council conclusions the strategy outlines in terms of security that the European Union (EU) will protect the critical maritime routes by enhancing partner capacity and improve maritime domain awareness.
Partners in the region will be selected those who, “share common objectives, in specific policy areas”, find, “common ground based on shared principles, values or mutual interest” and have. “common goals of stability and prosperity”.
Joint exercises, port calls, EU counter piracy operations on the lines of Naval Force Atalanta will be organised.
Countries will be encouraged to partner the EU in European military and civilian common security and defence policy missions.
Counter terrorism, cyber and maritime security and crisis management will be the other domains of engagement.
Security and defence dialogue will be expanded with partners and the EU also seeks to engage strongly in the ASEAN Regional Forum.
Importantly the EU seeks to have a “meaningful European naval presence in the Indo Pacific,” in the future.
There are multiple soft areas for cooperation that have been identified by the Council in the policy including human rights which may become contentious.
The EU Council comes weeks before the annual India and the EU Summit which is now being held digitally. A discussion on the principal issues that have been covered in the document are likely to be discussed and could well be part of the joint statement where India and the EU may see expansion of partnership in the Indo Pacific
The Summit which was to be held in person in Porto, Portugal on 8 May 2021, is now being held digitally in view of the COVID-19 situation, The India-EU Leaders’ Meeting in the EU+27 format is the first time that such a meeting is being held, reflects the shared ambition of both sides to further deepen the Strategic Partnership for which the document may provide a frame of reference.