India and the European Union: Perceptions and Policies was a paper written by Rajendra KJain, Professor of European Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. The paper was presented at the European Studies in Asia (ESiA) Network Public Panel, "EU-Asian Relations: Policies and Perceptions of the EU in Malaysia,", Asia-Europe Institute, University of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur in 2009.

The text has been abridged by AALEP.

About Perceptions:

For the Indian policymaker, the EU is not an easy political animal to deal with partly because of the rotating presidencies, proliferating regulations and so on. India is clearly more comfortable with bilaterals. While there is some clarity regarding policies of EU member states, it is often difficult to say what EU policy is.

There is also a clear bias in the importance given to Washington as opposed to Europe or the EU in the Indian media and in both intellectual and cultural ties with the United States.

According to Professor Rajendra Kjain, there are three other enduring perceptions that Indians have of the European Union.

1. More perceptive Indians feel that when it comes to India/South Asia, there still continue to be three kinds of people in the EU: (a) there are those who are otherwise very well informed and knowledgeable but who do not try to understand South Asia, because others have tried it before and failed to do so; (b) then there are those who neither understand anything, nor do they wish to understand anything; and (c) then there is a small minority which falls between these categories: those who have the courage and perseverance to make an effort to understand the more complex problems of India and wish to do something about it. The Nordic countries have been perceived as the "moral superpowers", with strong views on human rights. Many in India feel that Europe very often tends to have a patronizing attitude. Their motto seems to be: "Let's engage and teach you how to do things"

2. Relations with India are still driven by "very small circles" in Brussels. In the first circle are those which have substantial economic stakes- primarily the Big Three (France, Germany and the United Kingdom). When push comes to shove, they are the ones which bring the requisite energy to move things forward in an increasingly heterogeneous Union. In the second circle are those member states which have interests in certain sectors, but which do not quite have the big picture. In the third circle are the remaining member states, which broadly feel that if something are good for others, it is fine with them.

3. Most stakeholders in India feel that Indian's democratic polity and shared values does not necessarily earn it any brownie points in Europe, that the EU, including the European think tank community, continues to have a fixation with China, and that most senior EU officials feel India "is getting there, but not quite arrived".

About Policies:

The European Union is India's largest trading partner, source of high technology and a significant aid donor. India no longer regards the European Union as a mere trading bloc, but as an increasingly important political actor in world politics, with a growing profile and presence.

For the most part, the driving force behind EU-India relations has been, is, and will continue to be trade and commerce. If trade goes forward, then many more things will move forward as well. Political dialogue has considerably widened and deepened in recent years with growing discussions on regional issues.

Europe is facing increasing difficulties in defining the international agenda and creating a new architecture of global governance. Emerging powers like India argue that the structures of global governance must be more democratic, representative and legitimate by increasing the participation of developing countries. Europeans see a patchwork of existing institutions with different coverage, often overlapping competences, principles, and governance structures, most of which have limited compliance or weak enforcement mechanisms, which they would like to strengthen. While Europe recognizes the importance of a rising India in the reconstruction of international institutions and has often talked about making it a full partner in the management of the global order, it is yet to take definite steps. The emerging powers want to change the prevalent world order to facilitate preferred outcomes. Effective multilateralism- which European politicale elites call the DNA of the European Union- will continue to be elusive because it cannot simply be reduced to legal regulation or common values, but is a process of political negotiation.

There is some convergence of policy and practice between the EU and India on questions of multilateralism and global governance, but that convergence has notable and significant limitations. The emerging powers want to play a greater role in the making of new rules of the international economic and financial system.

There are many things that India needs to do in order to deal with the growing profile and role of the European Union in world politics. It needs to intensify its engagement of EU institutions, especially the European Parliament and enhance its contact and interaction with the Coucil. It needs to promote civil society exchanges and linkages between India and Europe and build greater expertise in Indian universities and the think tank community on India and the European Union.

After 11 summits, India and the European Union are gradually getting used to working together. There is a widening and deepening of political dialogue and a variety of consulting mechanisms on around 45 issues, which have enabled the two sides to better understand and appreciate eah other's positions, perspectives and perceptions. However, shared values do not necessarily translate into greater cooperation. One needs to have shared interests and priorities. Mutual long-term interest is going to be in areas like scientific and technological cooperation, movement of skilled persons etc.. The time to build and enhance existing frameworks is now.



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