After decades of relatively smooth sailing, India and European nations now find themselves in a tense and difficult relationship. New Delhi’s decision to buy Russia’s oil at a discount after the Ukraine war was branded in Europe as war profiteering and financing the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
There is a strong feeling throughout the West that India is profiting from “the pain being felt in European households”.
During her visit to New Delhi, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss urged India to “commit fully” as the world’s largest democracy. In retaliation, the European Union proposed an insurance ban on ships carrying Russian crude to Asian ports; nearly 95% of the oil insurance market is dominated by Western players.
At the recent GlobeSec Bratislava Forum, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar pointed out that European nations, despite the introduction of a new sanctions package, continue to buy Russian gas in large quantities. He accuses Europe of applying sanctions against Russia in a way that is not traumatic for its economy, while denying the freedom and choice that exist for other oil-hungry developing countries.
Are Europe’s persuasions stemming from justified ‘resentment’ at failing to win India’s support during its worst security crisis since World War II, or from being coercive in imposing its will on others? ?
Europe has given birth to some of the greatest political frameworks worth emulating – liberal democracy, welfare state, human rights, rule of law, common currency and open borders. Yet Europe is not without skeletons in its modernity closet.
Take the case of the legendary “neutral” Switzerland located in the heart of Europe. As beautiful as its nature, direct democracy in Switzerland is one of the most beautiful and transparent political systems in the world. This, along with its almost corruption-free government, brilliantly camouflages what lies in the immense vaults of their banks – the black money accumulated by corrupt nations around the world. It is fascinating to see how this small country holds almost a third of the world’s offshore funds, without revealing their sources.
“Our government never refuses requests from a foreign country to release information about its citizens holding accounts in Swiss banks, but that should not lead them to believe that it will ever be disclosed in any material way,” replied correctly. a Swiss citizen during an informal conversation.
Despite the existence of a few treaties and agreements between India and Switzerland, including one for the automatic exchange of information in tax matters, very little progress has been made in tracking down black money. Funds deposited by Indians in various Swiss banks have grown exponentially and hit a 14-year high in the past two years, according to annual data from the Swiss central bank released last month.
Like the Swiss government, the European Union invokes a curious double standard when it comes to vital issues. The non-inclusion of Muslim-majority Turkey in the secular EU, despite the inclusion of geographically distant Cyprus, is perhaps the classic example. Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl cheekily declared: “The EU is based on Christian principles and cannot accommodate countries that do not share this identity”.
The same fundamental duplicity can also be illustrated in the case of the Italian marines that occurred in India ten years ago. On March 7, 2012, just days after two innocent Indian fishermen were shot dead by Italian marines, EU foreign policy spokeswoman Catherine Ashton called for a “satisfactory solution” to the problem.
A year later, when the Marines slyly refused to return to India after their parole in Italy, Ashton urges a “joint solution”. How can a “joint solution” be possible when one party has hijacked the entire agreement beyond any “satisfactory” means of the other party?
It was only because of the timely and impactful intervention of the Supreme Court of India which brought the marines back to India for trial.
Curiously enough, Europe’s double standard towards ‘others’ is not the result of conscious malice, but emanates from a heightened sense of morality.
Many of the ideas, events and institutions that have changed human history have their origins in Europe. It is therefore natural that most Europeans feel like guardian angels of the modern world with certain “inherent” privileges. They are often locked into Europe’s glorious past despite changing global power equations.
The double standard, as seen in the case of Russian oil imports from India, comes from the fact that Europe wants to occupy the high moral ground. This is neither a justified concern about India’s strategic ambivalence towards invading Russia, nor mere coercion.
This is where Jaishankar’s central argument lies: “Europe must get away from the idea that Europe’s problems are the world’s problems but that the world’s problems are not Europe’s problems. “.
What is remarkable here is that the emerging global powers are no longer ready to buy the European “moral constructs” of the world.
Sajan is a social anthropologist trained in Norway; and Idicula is Consultant Neurologist and Associate Professor at NTNU, Norway
July 29, 2022