“Indians and Europeans see China as an increasingly existential threat”

Tribune. The rapprochement between India and European countries is undoubtedly the geopolitical variable that has been the least commented on by observers on the international scene. This development, which reached its peak in the spring [2021], is no less remarkable: in May, the India-European Union (EU) summit confirmed the momentum at work since the middle of the last decade through the announcement, in particular, of the resumption of negotiations. of a free trade agreement.

Trade has been at the heart of the Indo-European Strategic Partnership since its creation in 2004. But the negotiations, which lasted until 2013, never led to the signing of such a treaty due to many stumbling blocks. , from Indian customs barriers (tariffs and non-tariffs) in fields as varied as the automobile and agrifood industry to the EU’s refusal to grant the thousands of visas that India requested, in particular for its computer engineers.

The garb of democracy

These bones of contention remain, and India has even become more protectionist in recent years. It has still not concluded a free trade treaty with a country located west of its western border and has given up joining the large trade zone that became the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership in 2019. The EU also feels vulnerable in this area, Brexit having reduced the free trade area it had gradually built, and trade disputes with Trump’s United States having shown the relative fragility of the transatlantic partnership.

In fact, the resumption of trade negotiations between India and the EU stems less from a desire to trade than from a political decision stemming from a feeling of shared isolation, especially since the Indian economy is experiencing since 2017 a slowdown that the Covid-19 crisis has amplified and that European investors are not jostling at the Indian gates.

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The political reasons for the Indo-European rapprochement are readily adorned with the garb of democracy. There is not an official press release without European and Indian officials singing the praises of their affinities in the matter – and this antiphon will gain momentum as the Summits of Democracies approach. [le 9 et 10 décembre 2021 puis] in 2022. But, in private, European diplomats are often more critical and the European Parliament itself was, in 2021, the setting for very critical discourse on the subject. In fact, since Narendra Modi came to power in 2014, “The largest democracy in the world” lives in the age of Hindu nationalism.

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