FREE AND OPEN INDO-PACIFIC - Shared Challenges and Opportunities for Cooperation

by ORF - KAS India Office

The Indo-Pacific has gained currency in India’s, in Germany’s and in the EU’s policy approaches: in India through its Indo-Pacific vision and Indo-Pacific Oceans’ Initiative; in Germany with the release of the Policy Guidelines for the Indo-Pacific; and the EU in April 2021 adopted the ‘EU Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific' and the Global Gateway plan in December 2021. Ensuring a free, open and a rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific has become a major policy priority for countries of the region.


The Indo-Pacific region generates 60 per cent of  the global gross domestic product and is linked to Europe through transregional production networks and supply chains. With an economy slated to be the world’s third largest by 2030, with the world’s largest population and two strategic coastlines at the heart of the Indian Ocean, India holds the potential to be the European Union’s most important partner as Europe seeks to balance its relations with China while expanding its engagement in the countries of the Indo-Pacific. India will also play a vital role in reconfiguring global supply chains and investment flows to reduce its over-reliance on China. With the world’s seventh most powerful navy located in the strategic heart of the Indo-Pacific, India is an essential partner for the European Union, whose common foreign and security policy is increasingly dedicated to preserving the security of the Indo-Pacific as an international maritime commons. Despite China being a major trading partner for the EU, the Union has also identified China as an economic competitor and a systemic rival. The EU aims to align with third countries for mutual benefit, enhancing its presence in existing multilateral platforms. The EU- India Strategic Partnership is to be seen in this geopolitical context as well as in Europe's and India's shared political vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific.

Both Germany and the EU’s Indo-Pacific policy document acknowledges that the region is increasingly characterized by and consequently is susceptible to shifts in power equations with there being divergent interests and aspirations of countries comprising it. As an advocate of the rules-based international order, their interests lie in its participation in the region’s growth and the protection of regional structures. The need for the maintenance of freedom of navigation and territorial sovereignty has been underlined as well. Towards this end, for instance, the navies of India and Germany carried out a joint exercise in the Gulf of Aden near Yemen in August 2021, and early last year, in January 2022, a German frigate FGS Bayern made a port call to Mumbai as part of its seven-month deployment to the Indo-Pacific region. India has similar interests as Germany and the EU, namely a free and open Indo-Pacific and securing its maritime trading routes. Therefore, how does the German and the EU Indo-Pacific policies stand to impact the dynamics of the Indo-Pacific region? What are the potential areas that India and Germany alongside the EU can work together to ensure a stable and rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific? How would they gain from this cooperative arrangement?

Keeping these critical questions in mind, the Observer Research Foundation in partnership with the India Office of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) proposed a series of high-level roundtable discussions focusing on critical aspects and areas of cooperation for enhancing partnerships in the Indo-Pacific. The primary themes to be covered in the roundtable discussions will focus on: a) prospects for boosting infrastructure development in the Indo-Pacific; b) ensuring a secure and stable order in the Indo-Pacific. What role can India and Germany alongside the EU play in the above mentioned areas? The discussions analysed the benefits as well as challenges to development of an India-Germany and the India-EU partnerships in the areas of infrastructure development, connectivity as well as security; identified constructive steps that can be taken to promote Indian and European priorities and standards across the Indo-Pacific. Two primary policy pillars were deliberated upon to enhance EU-India collaboration to foster an Indo-Pacific connectivity: Green energy transition; Maritime security cooperation and capacity building.






Dr. Adrian Haack

Portrait Adrian Haack

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