Dr Veda Pratap Vaidik
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Europe is happening at a very crucial time. Modi is going to be in Europe for just three days. During his trip the Prime Minister will meet leaders of about half a dozen European countries. Apart from Germany and France, he will also meet leaders of Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland and Finland. Foreign Minister and Finance Minister and a few other senior government functionaries are also with the PM entourage. This will be his first multinational tour after the Corona pandemic.
There are two serious issues in sight. One is the Corona epidemic and the other is even a more serious crisis-the Russian attack on Ukraine. It is not easy to have dialogues with European nations on this occasion, because India’s attitude on the Ukraine crisis has been neutral. In fact, all European nations expected India to condemn Russia for attacking Ukraine.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursala von der Leyen visited India and tried their best to garner India’s support in their favour in the ongoing Ukraine conflict. But our Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister made it clear that India does not support the Russian attack, but opposing it would be pointless. During Modi’s visit to Europe this issue would be raised repeatedly by those countries but it is certain that India won’t budge on its Ukraine policy despite our improving economic and strategic ties with Europe.
But this does not mean that India’s firm stance will in any way hamper our relations between these European nations. India has already signed a big deal for fighter planes with France. Both Germany and France are dependent on Ukraine’s oil and gas. So far they have not been able to arrange for any alternate supply of fuels.
Apart from this, Modi will also meet the new Chancellor of Germany, Olf Scholz. The Prime Minister will also interact with the leaders of Nordic countries with a view to increasing India’s trade with those nations. For over two centuries almost all the major European nations have made many billions of dollars from trading in raw materials from the South Asian countries, especially from India, but today all these countries put together do only 2 percent of their trade with India.
There are multiple reasons for such a low trade volume happening between India and about 180 crore people spread across these nations. One of the major reasons for this is that our traders are completely dependent on English for communication. If they knew the local languages of these countries, then the trade volume could have been above 10-15 percent.
If the political and strategic cooperation between India and European countries get better, then it will be to our advantage for India will not need to line up with any particular superpower during the ongoing friction between the two global powers-America and China.
*Dr. Vaidik is a widely travelled scholar-journalist. He has visited more than 80 countries on diplomatic and educationalmissions. Dr. Vaidik has won more than a dozen National and International awards for academic and journalistic excellence. He has been a member of several Advisory Committees of Government of India.