New Delhi: Talking about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent Europe tour, let us start being optimistic.
In 2016, the European Union circulated a vision statement wherein it was eloquently articulated that there is a direct connection between European prosperity and Asian security.
As they say, in light of the ‘economic weight that Asia represents’ for the EU —and perhaps also vice versa— peace and stability in Asia are a prerequisite for Europe’s prosperity.
The European Union pledged to deepen economic diplomacy and scale-up security roles in Asia.
These references have been necessary to do a postmortem on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to three key European players – Germany, France, Denmark, and Modi’s interaction with Nordic nations.
France has been India’s trusted friend through ups and downs, including the Cold War era. In the new era, France is a strategic partner and supplies Rafale jets, whether Rahul Gandhi likes it.
Germany has been a good friend as well. Veteran diplomats often recall that way back in 1959, the then German chancellor Konrad Adenauer decided to fund the establishment of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), including in Madras (Chennai).
The support consisted of German experts for teaching and setting up laboratories and workshops. The IITs changed India’s story in more ways than one.
Please note the timeline again. This was when the Americans were focused on their South Asian friend named Pakistan.
Moving on to another paradigm. PM Modi’s visit to Europe came when two developments hit Europe’s foreign policy dimension the most – the EU’s relationship with China is dented due to Beijing’s position in the Ukraine war, and the EU is ‘concerned’ about Vladimir Putin’s neo-aggressiveness in Europe.
In contrast, India’s foreign policy has another dimension. New Delhi could be concerned about Beijing’s aggressiveness too, but there is a platform called RIC – Russia, India and China and this platform may try to see a lot of transitions in their policies mutually and also outside.
It was everyone’s case to argue that Narendra Modi’s visit to Europe would help both sides gain a better understanding of each other’s issues and concerns.
Things went as part of plans, too and somewhere even beyond expectations.
“In times like these, we need to build an even stronger bridge between us. We discussed the war in Ukraine… Denmark and the entire European Union strongly condemn Russia’s unlawful and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine,” Denmark Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen could not have been more explicit.
She said Denmark hoped that India “would influence” Russia to spread the message. PM Modi did his part in the given circumstance and called for a ‘ceasefire’. The world media latched onto it. This shows that things have moved much beyond what was 20-30 years ago. The ‘New India’ as it is often dubbed.
Notably, Chancellor Scholz’s invitation to PM Modi to the G7 summit in Germany is also rightly seen as a special gesture, but not path-breaking.
Even in the past, Prime Ministers Dr Manmohan Singh and Atal Bihari Vajpayee had been invited to this August gathering.
But perhaps a more important part of the German-India story was Scholz driving home the point that Germany is “pleased” to have partners like India and another Asian player Indonesia and a few countries in Africa to do business. Importantly again, he emphasised – German-India ties even in the Indo Pacific.
“What is clear is that the Indo-Pacific belongs to the most dynamic global regions. And at the same time, it is confronted with a lot of conflicts and challenges. Thus, Germany is going to maintain and
further intensify …..India is amongst one of our very important partners here,” he said.
With French President Emmanuel Macron, the Prime Minister (Modi) made it clear that it is not the ‘position on war’ that matters but the ability to push for solutions. Modi shared his thoughts about the global consequence of the Ukraine war and its impact on the food security of poorer nations.
Of course, even on the global stage, it is believed both France and India are able to exert some influence on Putin.
Both President Macron and Mr Modi have spoken to the Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to end violence.
There are many things to look back on Modi’s recent Europe tour.
One thing that needs to be re-emphasised even from a journalist’s objective prism is that the Modi administration has singularly placed the country’s ‘self-interest’ above all issues in the Ukraine crisis.
New Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra has underlined it clearly, “I think insofar as India’s position on Ukraine is concerned, it has been amplified, made clear, enunciated in great detail in multiple fora.”
External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar also articulated his views.
“….. this is a wake-up call for Europe to start looking at Asia. This is a part of the world with unsettled boundaries, terrorism, and continuous challenges to the rules-based order. The rest of the world has to recognise that problems are not ‘going to happen’, but that they are happening,” he added.