As India and European Union (EU) look to expand defence and security cooperation, the EU’s first Defence Attaché took charge earlier this month while the two sides also held the first naval exercise recently, while officials noted that the ambit of security cooperation is expanding especially with focus on the Indo-Pacific.
“We have increased number of maritime exercises between EU and India… especially France and Italy. EU is now not only a trade and investment partner but also a security partner,” an EU official said on the sidelines of a discussion organised by the think tanks Council for Strategic and Defence Research and Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung. “We are now focussing on security, energy, sensitive technologies...,” the official said noting that there is lot of focus on digital connectivity.
Last week, Captain (Navy) Fabrizo Falzi who has earlier served as the Italian Defence Attaché in India took over as the first DA in the Delegation of the European Union in New Delhi. The EU has limited number of DA worldwide and the appointment in India shows the importance it attaches, another EU official noted.
“The Government of India, reserves the right, on the principle of reciprocity, to avail suitable reciprocal arrangement, as and when required,” India’s Ministry of External Affairs said in the letter accepting the appointment.
Recently, India and Italy signed a defence cooperation agreement. The official also noted the agreement between space agencies. India and Europe are the terminals of the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) corridor, the official added on the ambitious initiative which was announced on the sidelines of the G20 leaders summit in September.
Maiden Naval exercise
On October 24, India and EU conducted their first joint naval exercise in the Gulf of Guinea which saw the participation Indian Navy’s INS Sumedha, an Offshore Patrol Vessel, joined by Italian Navy Ship ITS Foscari, French Navy Ship FS Ventôse, and Spanish Navy Ship Tornado, the Indian Navy said in a statement. The exercise followed the third meeting of the EU-India Maritime Security Dialogue on October 05 in Brussels.
The four ships practiced a series of tactical manoeuvres in international waters off the coast of Ghana, including a boarding exercise, a flying exercise using the helicopters embarked on French Ship Ventôse and Indian Naval Ship Sumedha, and transfer of personnel between ships, the Navy said. “This exercise was followed by a knowledge sharing session in Accra, Ghana which built on the joint experience at sea to improve operational know-how. The session also helped deepen ties between Ghanaian officials and representatives of the Indian, EU and EU member states missions to Ghana.”
The Navy stated that the activities underlined the shared commitment of India and the EU to supporting coastal States and the Yaoundé Architecture in ensuring maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea. “They reflected the breadth and dynamism of EU-India cooperation on maritime security, and signalled the common determination to uphold the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea,” the Navy said.