Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Europe tour started with a raging success as apart from the love and support he received from the enthusiastic Indian diaspora in Berlin, his first-ever meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz cleared all doubts about the possibility that relations would have soured after India refused to outrightly condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, stepped up oil imports from Russia and when questioned on “morality”, it cited the West’s hypocrisy on Europe’s unswerving indulgence in Russian gas versus that of India’s comparatively minuscule imports.
Germany extended the G7 Summit invite to India, pledged $10.5 billion to its green growth plan to meet its 2030 climate action targets and while being alone in its condemnation of Russia in the joint statement, it joined India in raising the importance of the UNCLOS in all marine domains including the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean. The two sides are committed to FTA negotiations, and also upheld their call for reforms in the United Nations Security Council as members of the G4 and called for countries to work towards eliminating terror financing and safe havens for terrorist organisations. PM Modi also sent a message to Russia with a mention of inflation in his speech. “Due to the turmoil caused by the Ukraine war, oil prices are skyrocketing. There’s a shortage of food & fertiliser in the world, this has caused a burden for every family in the world. However it’ll have the most serious impact on developing & poor countries,” he said.
Apart from the German visit, the Indian Prime Minister’s subsequent meetings with the Danish Queen and Prime Minister, followed by the propitious India-Nordic Summit and then a tour to France to meet President Emmanuel Macron, who is currently basking in the glory of his re-election— are all indicative of solidifying India-EU relations capable of steering ahead despite episodes of discord.
Europe humbled by India
During the Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi, India’s Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar continued highlighting the West’s hypocrisy. “When rules-based order was under challenge in Asia, the advice we got from Europe is- do more trade. At least we are not giving you that advice. We should find a way of returning to diplomacy and dialogue,” he said. Before this, amid the 2+2 dialogue in Washington DC, he told the press to look at Europe if they wish to talk about energy purchases from Russia. “Looking at the figures, probably our total purchases for the month would be less than what Europe does in an afternoon,” he remarked.
Also Read: As India Buys Russian Oil, Can The US Really Lecture India on its Place in History?
India’s argument holds water backed by Europe’s gas imports from Russia which actually increased after the invasion, contrary to the sentiment projected in its condemnation of Russia and its promise to hold Russia to account. It’s not every day that Europe would see itself being called out and left humbled by India which has not only refused to toe the Western line but also has no qualms about shattering the moral high ground that the West has been riding on. Every Western sermon aimed at India on ‘morality’ has so far boomeranged— something that the US and Europe are finally accepting as the new, more assertive India they are dealing with. Despite this discordant exchange of the last three months, the West has not acted on its resentment at being called out by India. Instead, as is being seen in Modi’s Euro tour and Boris Johnson’s visit to India before this, countries are moving on, allowing the Russia issue to remain a thorn on the sidelines that would not come in the way of growing trade and strategic ties.
Also Read: Bold and No-nonsense Jaishankar is Modi’s Best Choice against West’s Bullying and Hypocrisy
The Pragmatic approach
Germany remains the highlight of PM Modi’s Euro tour. Reeling under the pressure of giving up Russian energy imports, the largest European buyer of Russian energy is torn between paying a heavy inflationary price and irking its Nato allies. To add insult to injury, Russia is demanding payments in rubles in order to circumvent European Union’s sanctions and threatening to immediately close the taps otherwise— depriving European nations of the comfort of “phasing out” Russian energy imports on their own terms. Bulgaria and Poland have already been shut out, and German companies are ready to make their payments on Putin’s terms. Uniper, one of Germany’s top Russian gas buyers, is ready to meet Gazprom’s new terms for payments. Gazprombank, where several European companies are opening second accounts to meet the euro/dollar to ruble payment requirement, is not on the list of Russian banks sanctioned by the EU. However, any attempt to circumvent these sanctions is still a risk.
The European Commission has warned that paying for Russian gas in rubles would amount to a breach of EU sanctions on Russia. Germany’s economy ministry, however, does not think that special accounts in the Gazprombank would breach sanctions if payments are made in euros or dollars. Long story short, Europe is divided over what constitutes a breach of sanctions ever since Putin threw a curveball over the nature of payments and Germany is receiving most of the bad press over this European inability to jettison Russian energy imports. Thus, to see that as a Nato ally and EU behemoth, the onus lies on Berlin to lead with example, topped with the realisation that this new rule does not apply universally, it is obvious that Germany would likely be a little sour that India would not board this torture train with it. However, the geopolitical realities run counter to black and white assessments of the matter. Where was Germany, or the EU for that matter, when the armies of China and India clashed in the Galwan valley in the summer of 2020? It was busy finalising the EU-China Investment Treaty. The West also failed India when Afghanistan was left defenceless for the Taliban and its Pakistani brokers to take over and alter the security dynamics of its neighbourhood.
Therefore, the pragmatic thing to do would be to let bygones be bygones, and work on areas of shared interest. And that is what India and Germany plan to do. This is a significant breakthrough for India-EU relations and may pave the way for fruitful outcomes in the years to come.
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