India needs a new integrated approach to Eurasia

News: India’s Indo-Pacific strategy has got a concrete political and institutional shape with the setting up of QUAD. India must develop a similar strategy for Eurasia as well. The Eurasian Strategy will completement the Indo-Pacific Strategy as the latter influences maritime geopolitics while the former will be in the Continental domain.

What is the concept of Eurasia?

The concept of Eurasia poses challenges similar to the Indo-Pacific. While the region can be defined unambiguously by the Physical Geographers, the political definition of Eurasia remain fluid. Russia defines Eurasia in terms of territory and neighbourhood of the former Soviet Union. Some others define it in terms of “Central Asia”, “Inner Asia” and “Greater Middle East” by including West Asia as well. India must consider Eurasia in broadest term to shape its Eurasian strategy.

How is the geopolitics changing in the regions?

China’s dramatic rise: China asserts deep influence in the region due to its long borders. China has grown more aggressive in recent times as the region is central to its BRI project which extends till Atlantic Coast of Europe. Moreover Russia’s differences with the West has brought China and Russia closer.

US Realignment: While the US has increased focus on the Indo-Pacific, there is realignment of America’s strategic view regarding the Atlantic and Eurasia. US has already withdrawn from Afghanistan. The US and NATO are debating the rebalancing of Europe’s collective defense where the US had played a central role since WWII. The US is calling this rebalance as “Burden Sharing” while EU might call it “Strategic Autonomy”. But in essence, the US might reduce its role in Europe’s strategic defense and Europe might take a more central role and would require a rethink regarding Europe’s conception of Eurasia.

What has been India’s relationship with Eurasia?

India’s connection with Eurasia dates to ancient civilization links since the Buddhist era. Foreign forces continued to come to India through the western border while the British got entangled with the Russians in the Great Game in 18th and 19th centuries. The partition of India and a hostile neighbour in the West cut off India from Central Asia and Eurasia. Overcoming this barrier would be central to India’s Eurasian Strategy.

What should be India’s Strategy?

There should be 3 core elements to India’s Eurasian Strategy

  1. Centrality of Europe: Many Indian nationalists had made Europe their base during the freedom struggle. Post independence, India’s relationship with the USSR had led to distancing from Europe. India must have strategic engagement with Europe (both EU and NATO) on Eurasian Security and should set up a military office in Brussels as the first step.
  2. Engagement with Russia on Eurasian security: There are differences between India and Russia regarding QUAD, China and Taliban; but there are significant common grounds between the two regarding Eurasian security
  3. Collaboration with Iran and Arab world: While Iran is central to connectivity; the Arabs are critical due to their religious influence. Both might help in countering the hostile Turkey-Pakistan alliance.

India shouldn’t let the internal contradictions between all the regional and extra-regional stakeholders. Eurasia presents both a challenge and opportunity to India’s foreign policy.

Source: This post is created based on the article “India needs a new, integrated approach to Eurasia” published in Indian Express on 9th November 2021.

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