Europe seen from the outside: What does India think about Europe? And why?

Sunaina Kumar, a Delhi-based independent journalist and Media Ambassador India-Germany 2016, presented the Indian perspective on Europe. 


Sunaina Kumar, a Delhi-based independent journalist and Media Ambassador India-Germany 2016 who has reported widely on issues of politics, society, and culture.

Angela Stanzel, ECFR Policy Fellow in ECFR’s Asia program.

Chaired by

Almut Möller, Senior Policy Fellow and Director of the Berlin ECFR Office

On October 10th, the ECFR Berlin office and Stiftung Mercator organized a public debate to discuss what India thinks about Europe and why. The special guest of the night was Sunaina Kumar, a Delhi-based independent journalist and Media Ambassador India-Germany 2016 who has reported widely on issues of politics, society, and culture. 

She highlighted that the European Union and India share a lot of commonalities. However, a lack of mutual understanding and fundamental differences are driving India and the EU apart. Whereas the EU promotes its norms and values – also pedantically rapping India’s knuckles over human rights violations – India takes an anti-interventionist international stance, pursuing  great power politics in its own backyard. Similarly, India and Europe struggle to cooperate effectively in the field of global governance, for example on trade liberalization and climate change. Regional crises in Libya and Syria have further alienated the two, pursuing their shared interests in the Middle-East through different strategies.

We subsequently discussed how the common ground between the EU and India could be converted into a basis for mutual understanding and coordination from an Indian perspective. Sunaina Kumar forcefully argued that it is now time for the EU and India to establish an exchange between India and Europe that goes further than the usual summit meetings, in particular in fostering people-to-people exchanges.

We furthermore touched upon the question what India thinks about and expect from current developments in Europe. Sunaina Kumar pointed out that India is well aware of the lacking cohesion in Europe resulting from the refugee crisis and the threat of terrorism and does not want to be lectured anymore by the EU. Instead, both the EU and India should resort to learning from each other instead of fueling existing dissent on issues such as trade or human rights. Meanwhile, the Brexit is perceived with indifference and major consequences on the relations with the EU are not expected, as India already maintains strong bilateral relations with some of the EU member states (such as the UK naturally but also France and Germany).

In ‘What Does India Think?’, which was made possible with the kind support of the Robert Bosch Foundation, François Godement ,director of ECFR’s Asia & China program, highlights areas in which greater cooperation between Europe and India would be advantageous.