September 29, 2008AfghanistanEUEuropeEuropean UnionForeign AffairsIndiainternational relationsPakistanRealismterrorismUnited Nations

The trouble with Europe

…is that it only wants to do the easy stuff

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

In an op-ed in European Voice, Richard Gowan argues that it may be better for the EU to base a partnership with the world’s largest democracy not on values, but on a joint effort to deal with the crisis in Afghanistan.”

Realists will scarcely raise an eyebrow when someone argues that common values’ are not a basis for relations between states. But Dr Gowan’s criticism of India’s dislike for the international human rights agenda that the EU likes so much does not take into account that the UNs record on human rights is farcical. Moreover, the EUs commitment to responsibility to protect’ is largely rhetorical—and it is fair to question whether European countries have the stomach to fight other peoples’ fights. India is the only country that actually intervened in its neighbourhood to prevent potential genocides—twice (East Pakistan 1971, Sri Lanka 1987). In contrast, Europe’s conduct in the genocides in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda was, well, shameful.

But what of the joint effort to deal with the crisis in Afghanistan then? As a concept that is a good basis for improving relations between the EU and India, for their interests coincide. Not, however, in the manner Dr Gowan proposes.

Rahul Chandran, an Afghanistan expert at the Center on International Cooperation in New York, suggests an alternative. India should make a security guarantee to Pakistan, promising not to launch any future war in return for more co-operation on Afghanistan.

The US and NATO could underwrite this guarantee, backing confidence-building measures and mediating disputes. European NATO members would play second fiddle to the U.S., but their continued presence in Afghanistan would back up India’s offer. [EV]Because Mr Chandran ignores the fundamental reason for India to even consider launching a future war’, the whole idea becomes absurd. The tension along the India-Pakistan border is linked to Pakistan’s extant policy of using cross-border terrorism to push its anti-India agenda. The threat of war, therefore, is the way in which India escalates Pakistan’s costs of using terrorism as a policy instrument. So unless the US and NATO can underwrite a Pakistani guarantee that it will stop cross-border terrorism, it is absurd for India to promise anything.

It is characteristic of the European free-riding mindset to want to underwrite’ guarantees made by the Indian government, backing confidence-building measures or mediating disputes’. Dr Gowan doesn’t explain just why India would want the Europeans playing this role. If the EU is really serious about building a closer relationship with India, it has to develop a better appreciation of India’s interests.

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