By: Dr. SANGHAMITRA SARMA, Strategic Analyst on European Affairs
The External Affairs Minister Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar was on a visit to Greece marking the beginning of closer relations with important European countries.
Though relations with both countries have been warm and cordial, yet the partnership is yet to attain its full potential. With Greece, India sees a “strategic partner” with which it has a “long term friendship” as stated by the External Affairs Minister in September 2020 during his virtual meeting with the Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias. The recent visit of Dr. Jaishankar is the first by an Indian External Affairs Minister in the last 18 years.
The Ministry of External Affairs said both India and Greece laid stress on the need for respect of sovereignty and territorial integrity by all members of the international community. During the talks, both leaders undertook a detailed review of the bilateral ties and discussed the recent developments pertaining to the Eastern Mediterranean, Cyprus and Libya and agreed that the rule of law and respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity are fundamental principles of international relations and must be observed by all.
The ongoing conflict in the Eastern Mediterranean involving Turkey, Greece, Cyprus and Libya have triggered geo-political tensions in the region calling for a jointly agreed settlement while respecting the norms of international law and meaningful diplomacy. The reference to Cyprus comes in the context of Ankara’s plan to mark the anniversary of the 1974 invasion of the island by Turkish forces which have been opposed by the Republic of Cyprus as well as by the European Union (EU).
One of the most significant outcomes of the External Affairs Minister’s visit to Greece was the country formally joining the International Solar Alliance (ISA). This step will enable the realisation of the energy goals set by the respective governments to make renewable energy attainable thus reducing dependence on the need for fossil fuels.
Both countries discussed the need to work towards an agreement that will allow orderly and legal ways of migration and mobility in the globalised world. The Covid-19 pandemic, the threat posed by radicalisation and terrorism, Indo-Pacific, counter-terrorism and UN reforms were highlighted in the talks as well. Discussions on reforms in other multilateral institutions to make them “more inclusive, transparent, accountable, and better reflective of contemporary geopolitical realities” was also included within the gamut of bilateral relations.
Greece also reiterated its support for permanent membership of India in a reformed United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Turkey is part of the Uniting for Consensus or “Coffee Club” which is countering bids by G4 nations–Brazil, Germany, India, and Japan for an expanded UNSC. The leaders also reemphasised the significance of signing the Cultural Exchange Programme for the period 2021-2025 at an early date.
The External Affairs Minister also met Greece Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and congratulated the country on its 200th independence anniversary. Dr. Jaishankar highlighted the fact that Greece is the meeting point of relations between Eastern Europe and Russia on one side and the EU on the other. From this viewpoint, the India-Greece relationship is yet to become much more ambitious and there are lots of angles to be explored in order to make the relationship fruitful and strong. While in Greece, the Indian Minister along with his Greek counterpart also unveiled a statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Athens.
Given the fact that India and Greece had established diplomatic relations in 1950, the partnership is yet to become robust and multifaceted and rise above the cultural engagements and political visits. The current discussions between the two leaders of India and Greece have shown the keenness to make their relationship diversified and extend it to issues that involve geo-political concerns, thereby laying the ground for establishing a strategic partnership.
In this regard, the convergence of views on the Indo-Pacific will lay the ground for establishing greater regional stability, considering the fact that China has already made inroads into Europe (including Greece) through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).