The Indian Ocean today is critical for the future of the EU and India. The rise of piracy in the late 2000s demonstrated the pernicious effect non-traditional security threats can have on European and Indian economic growth prospects. While both aim to ensure a rules-based order, cooperative multilateralism, and sustainable growth and stability in the Indian Ocean Region, the European Union and India have rarely partnered to pursue these shared interests. Two deeply entrenched myths explain the absence of this dialogue and the consequent lack of cooperation: Indian perceptions of the EU as a strategic non-entity and irrelevant strategic actor beyond its borders; and similarly, European perceptions of an introverted India that is hesitant to take on a leadership role beyond South Asia and unwilling to work together with other middle powers. Based on consultations with policymakers and experts under the EU-India Policy Dialogue on Global Governance and Security, this brief emphasizes that, despite such perceptions, in practice the EU and India’s initiatives in the Indian Ocean are widely congruent and complementary.
- The EU and India should move from occasional naval coordination to institutionalized cooperation through regular joint exercises and patrolling initiatives. They should focus on maritime cooperation in non-traditional security domains, such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, which underline the Indian Ocean’s significance as a global commons.
- They need to jointly develop and transfer defense equipment and devise common programs to build island states’ coastal and naval capacity through training. Pursue a “blue revolution” by investing in maritime infrastructure, especially sea ports and communication networks, to connect and integrate the region as a distinct economic space.
- Emphasizing the potential of international law and norms to mitigate and solve disputes, the EU and India should strengthen existing institutions and create new ones that foster a multilateral and rules-based order.