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Maritime Security and Freedom of Navigation from the South China Sea and Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean: Potential and Limits of EU-India Cooperation


Maritime security is of increasing importance for the EU and India. The two partners are affected by both traditional and non-conventional security challenges, including piracy, human and drug trafficking and maritime terrorism. This led the EU to launch Operation Atalanta and the Indian Navy to carry out anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden. However, a far greater threat could arise from traditional power politics, i.e. inter-state conflict which could result in a blockade of key maritime routes, in particular in the South China Sea which is currently under the spotlight as territorial and maritime tensions have steadily increased, not least in light of China’s growing assertiveness in the area. These evolving security dynamics should therefore invite EU and Indian policy makers to begin considering maritime policy and collaboration beyond the Indian Ocean – which so far has been the focus of their cooperation – to include the waters stretching from the Indo-Pacific to the Mediterranean, through the South China Sea, the Indian Ocean, the Arabian coasts, the Horn of Africa, the Red Sea and the Suez Canal. This Eurasian maritime space is also the area covered by China’s new Maritime Silk Road which presents India and the EU with formidable opportunities, but also significant security challenges.

Paper presented at the roundtable on EU-India Security Dialogue held in Mumbai on 7 November 2016 within the framework of the project “Moving Forward the EU-India Security Dialogue: Traditional and Emerging Issues” led by the Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI) in partnership with Gateway House: Indian Council on Global Relations (GH). The project is part of the EU-India Think Tank Twinning Initiative funded by the European Union.

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