The first Summit of the India-US-Japan-Australia Quadrilateral initiative, or Quad, held on Friday explored a partnership with Europe amid the group’s idea to create a free, open rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond.
While three European nations — France, Germany and the Netherlands — have announced their Indo-Pacific visions envisaging wide-ranging ties with India, the European Union is in the midst of formulating its own Indo-Pacific strategy.
At Friday’s meeting, the four leaders of the Quad nations explored the possibility of joining hands with Europe where various states are drawing up plans to expand their engagement with the Indo-Pacific region, ET has learnt. “The plan is still at the nascent stage and the Quad is exploring the possibility to form a partnership with the EU,” a highly placed source told ET.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his trip to Portugal in early May for the India-EU Summit is expected to focus on forging partnership with the European Union for the Indo-Pacific region.
In a blog published on Friday coinciding with the Quad Summit, European Commission vice president and high representative of the EU for foreign affairs and security policy Josep Borrell emphasised that the EU has a big stake in the Indo-Pacific region and should do its part to keep the regional order open and rules-based by stepping up engagement with India.
“Within the Indo-Pacific, India certainly plays a pivotal role. The EU and India have long shared a commitment to the rules-based international order and democracy … India has also decided to invest more in its relations with the EU, driven in part by China’s growing assertiveness and Brexit, requiring New Delhi to no longer see London as its sole entry point into dealing with ‘Europe’…,” according to Borrell.
Borrell said, “The next big opportunity to take EU-India cooperation forward will come in May, in Porto, when we should have a Summit with all EU27 heads of state and government attending, together with Prime Minister Modi, the President of European Council and the President of the European Commission. At that occasion, we hope to launch an EU-India Connectivity Partnership. It should cover the areas of digital, energy, transport and human connectivity, with the EU and India working bilaterally, but also by converging our efforts to better connectivity with third countries and regions.”
Borrell was equally emphatic about Beijing and noted that the EU is re-balancing its relations with China based on a strategy of treating China as a “partner, competitor and rival”.
“With China, we have a complex and demanding agenda, mixing cooperation on global issues with pushback where needed and a focus on reciprocity and strengthening EU resilience. We need to engage China because it does not make sense to ignore this great power. However, we need to engage while keeping our eyes wide open. I remain in close contact with state counsellor/foreign minister Wang Yi to pass EU messages and expectations on the bilateral and multilateral agenda. And together with President von der Leyen, I will submit a report on the state of implementation of the EU’s China policy to the March European Council,” Borrell wrote.
But Asia is big and diverse and should not be reduced to looking only at China, quite the opposite, Borrell said.
“In recent years, we have strengthened and diversified our ties with Japan, India, South Korea, Asean, Australia and New Zealand, complementing our traditional strong economic relations with more cooperation on foreign and security policy,” he wrote.
Borrell said the intention is for the EU to set out, in the coming months, a common vision for its future Indo-Pacific engagement.