In Post-COVID Fight, Delhi Must Join Hands With Europe. Here’s Why

EU and India can put together a coordinated answer and show the world that global cooperation still matters.

Updated21 Apr 2020, 12:22 PM IST
4 min read

The world is still battling the healthcare consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. From our homes, we are all struggling to find hope amid fear and uncertainty. However, what is peculiar to this crisis is that not only do we not know how and when it will end, but we also have difficulty in imagining how life will look like once the worst part of the pandemic is over. The world will be very different after this major test.

As the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned us a few days ago, this is the worst economic crisis since the 1930s. The deep economic consequences of the pandemic will require global action and coordination. The European Union and India should be closely coordinated in this context in the weeks to come.

No Global Players Leading the Way in COVID-19 Fight

There are several reasons for this, beyond the immediate logic of representing countries with big populations (the EU as a club is now around 450 million people, a third of India), who are still believers in democracy in a time when this model of government is being put to test.

Although it would be a big mistake to believe that every country can find its own way out of the crisis, this is still a perfectly plausible course of action. Unfortunately, there aren’t many major players willing to lead a global effort to mitigate the economic, social, and human effects of the pandemic. The US remains committed to its ‘America First’ philosophy and China, despite its attempts to counter any negative image it has gained due to the management of the crisis, cannot escape a certain international backlash – we already see some countries and companies moving production out of China, and will witness in the months to come an attempt to reduce dependence of Chinese goods and services.

Some countries will have to step up and assume leadership for how the world will look like in the aftermath of the pandemic.

It is my argument that the European Union and India can put together a coordinated answer and show the world that cooperation among great powers still matters, and can provide global public goods, and, in general, can shape the world for the better.

India may even try to capitalise strongly on the reshaping of the global supply chain – the EU can be a priority partner in this as well. After a bumpy start, the European Union has shown that it can live up to expectations, and has been very active in preparing and coordinating a medical, economic, and financial answer to the COVID-19 pandemic.

People Need to be Inspired by Positive Examples Amid COVID Gloom

Things are still in motion, details have to be sorted out, and the actual implementation has to be very good, but, if I am to speculate, the plans put forward by the European institutions have given a sense of perspective that the European capitals really needed at the end of March. At this moment, Europe can do more in global affairs and, if G7 and G20 are still timid in their ‘coordinated’ response, it can take a more active role and coordinate with like-minded actors such as India.

A partnership that is still in its infancy, the India-EU tandem has all the constitutive elements to ensure that existential fear will not be followed by economic anxiety, and that the international forum still has plenty of smart solutions to offer to the national leaders and regional forms of cooperation.

More than ever, people need to see positive examples, they need to be inspired, hear good news in order to start believing that there is a way out of this pandemic.

Both together and separately, India and the EU can provide the world with such positive stories. One out of six global citizens is Indian, so the country has so much at stake from the global recovery.

Delhi and its main global – political, business and civil society – players should be an active part of the solutions discussed by global organisations and fora, particularly a year after India became the world’s 5th largest economy.

A stronger cooperation with the EU, given that they share a similar global outlook (including not wanting to be pawns in great power competition), will only make these efforts more efficient. India can resume its way to growth and its plans to become, in the 2020s, the 4th largest economy, by delivering better standards at home, and offering EU-style prosperity in the decades to come.

Areas in Which Europe & India Can Partner & Bolster Each Other

For this partnership to function at high speed, a few preliminary things have to happen after the strategic component is agreed between the top decision-makers. It involves progress at the sectoral level. Fortunately, there is a long list of topics of common interest that can receive the green light. Connectivity, nuclear nonproliferation, investment in new (environmental) technologies and maritime security (for instance, the Indian Ocean could become a bridge, with impact on joint naval patrolling or something even bolder such as space operations) are on everyone’s mind.

Europe already has the financial tools to invest in India’s infrastructure and to show to the other countries of the region that the Belt and Road Initiative is not the only game in town; for example, I really see the potential in coastal cities twinning between Europe and India, with mutual investments.

In this wider context, business and foundation leaders from the EU and India should network more, beyond political-level hand shakes. Climate change mitigation is another area of convergent interest – let’s only think about the opportunities for the recycling economy. What is essential here, as others have suggested, is that trade is only a small part of the bigger picture.

The long-term goal is to bring together like-minded powers such as the EU, India, Japan, Australia and ASEAN countries, and to set the way forward for reimagining the global order. The time to go strategic is now. Are New Delhi and EU nations listening?

(Radu Magdin is a Romanian global analyst and analyst. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for them.)

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Published: 20 Apr 2020, 07:22 PM IST
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