Charting EU-India Cooperation on Connectivity
While initially a response to the massive infrastructure deficit in Asia, today the term ‘connectiv- ity’ is laden with strategic and political implications. This is largely a result of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and its very visible political, financial, and environmental impact across Europe and Asia. With its new Communication on Euro-Asian Connectivity, the EU aims to posi- tion itself as a global player in connectivity, looking to increase its engagement in Europe and Asia through building networks and new partnerships. It aims to re-shape the narrative around connectivity by focusing on sustainability, transparency, international standards, and building partner- ships. India too is similarly realizing the importance of connectivity, as a way to implement long delayed regional integration. Focusing towards its East, India believes that connectivity must be based on “universally recognized international norms, good governance, rule of law, openness, transparency and equality, and must be pursued in a manner that respects sovereignty and territorial integrity.” This paper examines the normative convergence between the EU and India’s approach to connectivity and explores what this means for their cooperation on the ground. It argues that connectivity is a new avenue for strengthening the EU-India political partnership. While neither India nor the EU can match the funds brought to the table by China and BRI, by partnering together they can provide alternatives to smaller countries in Asia. As both focus on soft connectivity – in terms of standard setting, capacity building and technical assistance – they would fill an important gap in the connectivity needs in Asia.