Factual Pursuit of Truth for Progress
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Monday warned that the Ukraine conflict will affect the Indo-Pacific region, even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi stressed that dialogue and diplomacy were the only way to achieve peace in Europe.
Von der Leyen further indicated that a “seemingly unrestrained pact” forged by Russia and China will have ramifications for both Europe and Asia.
She noted this friendship of “no limits” and with “no forbidden areas of cooperation” was finalized in February, before the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Addressing the Raisina Dialogue, the external affairs ministry’s flagship conference on geopolitics, Von der Leyen said the fallout of the Ukraine crisis was already being felt in the Indo-Pacific.
“What happens in Ukraine will have an impact on the Indo-Pacific region. It already has. Countries battered by two years of Covid-19 pandemic must deal now with rising prices for grain, energy and fertilizers as a direct result of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s war of choice.”
“Thus, the outcome of the war will not only determine the future of Europe but also deeply affect the Indo-Pacific region and the rest of the world,” she said, adding it was equally important for the Indo-Pacific and Europe that “borders are respected and that spheres of influence are rejected”.
At a meeting held earlier in the day, Modi and Von der Leyen expressed concern at the humanitarian situation in Ukraine and called for an immediate end to violence.
Modi “stressed the importance of giving peace a chance and the need to return to dialogue and diplomacy as the only way to achieve peace”, was according to a statement from the external affairs ministry.
The two leaders noted increasing policy convergence on the Indo-Pacific and exchanged views on regional and global issues such as the situation in Afghanistan and Myanmar and cooperation at the WTO and G20.
While addressing the Raisina Dialogue, Von der Leyen urged the international community to support Europe’s efforts for lasting peace in Ukraine, including sanctions designed to be sustained over a longer period of time to provide leverage to achieve a diplomatic solution.
“In Europe, we see Russia’s aggression as a direct threat to our security. We will make sure that the unprovoked and unjustified aggression against Ukraine will be a strategic failure,” she told an audience that included Modi, external affairs minister S Jaishankar, foreign ministers of more than a dozen countries and ambassadors.
“This is why we are doing all we can to help Ukraine fight for its freedom. This is why we immediately imposed massive, sharp and effective sanctions,” she added.
India has refrained from publicly censuring the Russian invasion of Ukraine but has called for respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries. Indian and Russian officials have discussed alternative payment mechanisms to ensure major defence and other deals aren’t disrupted by the Western sanctions.
Von der Leyen said the world community was at a defining moment, and the “response to Russia’s aggression today will decide the future of both the international system and the global economy”. This included whether the right of might or the rule of law will dominate, she said.
The European Union will continue to encourage China to play its part in a peaceful Indo-Pacific region, she said, adding that the relationship between the 27-member bloc and Beijing is “simultaneously strategically important and challenging”.
China is a “negotiating partner, an economic competitor and a systemic rival”, and the EU will continue its multifaceted engagement, cooperate on tackling common challenges, and protect its essential interests, Von der Leyen said.
Without naming China or its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Von der Leyen said the need for massive economic investments had resulted in some countries being “forced to take unsustainable offers” and facing a situation “where they do not fully control their own infrastructure, be it seaports or airports, be it bridges or railways”.
She positioned the EU’s Global Gateway as a transparent and values-driven alternative for creating clean and sustainable global infrastructure through investments of up to 300 billion euros.
Von der Leyen reiterated the EU’s commitment to work with India in green energy and digitalization.
She welcomed Modi’s declaration that India will be energy-independent before the 100th anniversary of its independence in 2047, and said Global Gateway could help India and Bangladesh by bringing in hydropower produced in Nepal and Bhutan and building clean hydrogen infrastructure.
In the digital field, India and the EU can work together to develop technology based on fundamental values and on setting standards.
“Today, India and the EU both recognise that we are better off when we develop global standards for new technologies such as 5G, instead of seeking separate national solutions.
“We share the idea that privacy should be guaranteed online as well as offline, and that technology should enhance individual freedom, not the state’s ability to control us,” she said, adding equivalent rules can unlock even greater data flows between the two regions.
At their bilateral meeting, Modi and Von der Leyen also reviewed the progress in implementing the India-EU Roadmap 2025 and welcomed the decision to formally restart negotiations on bilateral trade and investment agreements in June.
Both sides “expressed hope in the early conclusion of negotiations for unlocking the full potential of bilateral trade and economic relations”, and pointed to the strong synergies between the India-EU Connectivity Partnership announced last year and the EU’s Global Gateway initiative.
Vivek Mishra, a fellow for the strategic studies programme at the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), said Von der Leyen’s speech “depicted a deliberate poise straddling concerns over the ongoing war in Europe with possible threats to the rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific”. He added, “Her encouragement to China to play by the rules was a clear standout.”