Ukraine On The Table During Prime Minister Modi’s Trip To Europe, But Focus Is Firmly Economic

Europe has realised that pressure will not work with India, and is unlikely to push Prime Minister Modi on Russia. India would like the focus to be on innovative sustainable technology.

File photo of PM Narendra Modi.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi leaves this morning on a three-nation tour to Europe, at a time of major crisis brought on by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Since the end of the Second World War in 1945, Europe had not had a war fought on its soil through Asia, Africa, while the Middle East had faced several deadly wars including the recent wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.

The unexpected invasion of Ukraine by Russia has rattled Europe and helped to give fresh energy to NATO, which in the Cold War years was meant to secure the continent from the former Soviet Union. This is why Europe is now fully behind the US in trying to get the entire free world to condemn Russia’s savage attack.

Initially, the US and European leaders and diplomats had tried to press India to break away from Russia and take a firm stand with the world’s democracies. But that phase is over. India’s views are known— cessation of hostilities and getting back to diplomacy and a negotiated settlement. Both America and Europe have understood that India will work for its national self-interest and will not give in to pressure. In fact, India’s foreign minister made it quite apparent to European leaders at the Raisina Dialogue. The message has sunk in.

Ukraine will be discussed but there is unlikely to be any pressure on Prime Minister Modi to follow the US and NATO line by either German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen of Denmark or French President Emmanuel Macron.

The trip will be more about bilateral relations, and how to help revive growth in a world shattered by the pandemic as well as shortages brought on by the war in Ukraine. The economy and business and securing safe supply chains will dominate the discussions. "The focus will be on sustainability and green energy both in Germany and at the Nordic Summit in Denmark,’" says Gurjit Singh, a former ambassador to Germany. New Delhi is now looking to embrace the new sustainable technology to drive India’s growth.    

Modi’s first stop will be Berlin where he and Chancellor Scholz will co-host the India-German Intergovernmental Consultations(IGC). Modi will be accompanied by foreign minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman and minister of science and technology and earth sciences Jitendra Singh for the IGC. The ministers will have discussions with their counterparts followed by a plenary presided over by the PM and Chancellor. The plenary will focus on three issues-foreign affairs and security, economic and financial policy, scientific and social issues and climate, environment, sustainable development, and energy.

In his meeting with top CEOs in both Germany and Denmark, the PM will try to persuade European business leaders to set up manufacturing plants in India. This can create the much-needed jobs to boost the Indian economy and over the years turn India into a manufacturing hub.

In Denmark, apart from bilateral meetings with Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, Modi will also attend the second India-Nordic summit. India has begun seriously engaging with the Nordic nations since 2018 when the first summit was held in Sweden. The Nordic countries are Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Iceland. Between them, these countries are leaders in green energy as well as cutting-edge digital technology.

India’s new foreign secretary Vinay Kwatra told reporters at a news briefing on the PM’s visit that India’s partnership with Nordic countries is structured around five "clusters": "India's partnership with Nordic countries is structured around four to five clusters. And these clusters include 1. Green partnership, 2. The entire space of digital and innovation economy, 3. Economy, Trade, and Investment linkages, 4. Sustainable development, and 5. The partnership relates to the Arctic region. The Nordic summit will provide an opportunity to take forward the agenda in these clusters forward.”

India and the US are the only two countries that have summit-level meetings with the Nordic countries. Former President Barak Obama was the first to initiate the move. India saw the vast potential in invigorating ties with the Nordic nations and felt that a summit could give political direction to the move from the highest quarter.

On his way back  Narendra Modi will stop over for a few hours in Paris to meet Macron. He will possibly be the first world leader to meet the French President since his re-election. India has close political and strategic ties with France.  

"President Macron and I will share assessments on various regional and global issues and will take stock of ongoing bilateral cooperation. It is my firm belief that two countries that share such similar vision and values for the global order, must work in close cooperation with each other,’’ Prime Minister Modi said in a statement before he left on the three-nation visit. Ties with both France and Germany, the two most powerful countries in Europe will help India to further deepen ties with the EU.