Columns/Op-Eds, Politics / Globalisation

EU needs a reality check

Original link is here

The  Hindu, April 28, 2016

Patchy integration

The first of the two most visible weaknesses of the project has to be that this strong collective of European nations has achieved only patchy social integration within its members. The states have been open to economic migrants and welcoming distressed populations from across the world’s conflict zones in the past (most recently from West Asia). The Gastarbeiter model adopted by several of them in the 1960s and 1970s may have addressed short-run labour problems but may not have been as efficient in assimilating newcomers into their society. Arguably, an immediate consequence of this is the emergence and consolidation of radical Islamism and its twin, racist-right-wing politics. As such, liberal EU is now grappling with two illiberal ideologies

The second is in the economic sphere — the touchstone of the European integration project. The EU finds itself caught in the inevitable confusion that comes from being a monetary union without being a fiscal union. The periodic eruption of the Greek tragedy fundamentally arises from this cleavage.

But besides these, there are essentially four issues that dilute what the EU could potentially offer. To begin with, as a brand, it is behind its time. While smaller countries and developing regions of the world are seeking new collectives and the weight of these larger aggregations to reform the global order, the EU and the European project are seen and presented as status quo-ist, primarily concerned with perpetuating entrenched interests. From reforms of key Bretton Woods institutions like the International Monetary Fund to that of the UN Security Council, European powers are seen to want more of the same. While some European powers do realise that this posture may not be sustainable in the long run — witness their enthusiasm for the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank — they are either unwilling or unable to upend the existing global governance order and allow it to be refashioned according to the realities of the 21st century.

Too Atlantic-centric

The second issue seems to be Europe’s conception of the map — and its place in the extant geography of the world. Europe must realise that its future is to a large extent coupled to that of Asia’s and Africa’s. Instead of a serious institutional push towards building a common future with the powers that will shape these two regions, Europe and the EU have functionally de-hyphenated themselves from both. For example, Paris consults Washington for guidance on its Syria policy, but not New Delhi, from which it may have obtained more sage advice. It is not hard to get an impression that Europe’s penchant with trans-Atlanticism is a sentimental anachronism. Such attitudes also reinforce the impression that Europe is too busy consolidating the old boys’ club to realise that the geopolitical centre of gravity is inexorably moving eastwards. Obsessed with the Atlantic Order, Europe is near absent in the great debates of the Indo-Pacific.

Europeans could, defensively, justify this trans-Atlantic orientation in the name of values, except that the tyranny of values — whether it is as self-proclaimed champions of human rights, or of liberal non-invasive multiculturalism — has cost Europe tremendously in recent years in real political terms. Europe’s promotion of norms was driven by self-interest in the past. A world remade in its own image was a self-serving agenda from the colonial era to the Cold War, with tangible material benefits. What Europe has engaged in since is promotion of self-determined values and norms divorced from immediate political interests. This has led to the establishment of a tremendously inelastic value system that seeks to enforce conformity on those who see the world differently. Arguably Europe’s problems with integrating minorities in its national mainstream are one though not the only consequence of this social inelasticity.

All of these problems are compounded by the fact that Brand EU has a serious marketing problem. Brussels has made very little effort to engage the world beyond the borders of Europe in any meaningful way, and to great consequence. At a meeting between European and Indian scholars last year, both sides bemoaned the lack of communication initiated by the European side. EU public diplomacy has been fairly ineffective in large parts of Asia and Africa, with the consequence that the many positive messages that the EU could communicate to countries and regions to its east have been muted, to be crowded out by narratives emerging from eurosceptics in Britain and the U.S. instead. Therefore, the EU in India seems to be in the news mostly for the wrong reasons. It is time Europe took a hard look at its messaging, the medium, and at the concrete steps it needs to take to establish and reinvent itself among people it would need the most in the coming years.

Samir Saran is Vice-President at the Observer Research Foundation, Delhi.

BRICS, Columns/Op-Eds

What the Moscow Communique on Internet Governance Says About India’s Role in the Global Order

BY ON 19/04/2016

Original links are here

Samir Saran article with Arun Mohan Sukumar on Moscow Communique on Net Governance & India’s Role in the Global Order – – Observer Research Foundation Mail

The communique is testament to India’s role as the bridge between the liberal international regime and its counter-construct.

The Heart of the Internet: Fiber optic switches that can each handle up to 60GBs. Photo: Shawn HarquailThe Heart of the Internet: Fiber optic switches that can each handle up to 60GBs. Photo: Shawn Harquail


The joint communique from the recently concluded Russia-India-China (RIC) Foreign Ministers meeting in Moscow, as it relates to internet governance, reflects the unique role New Delhi plays within BRICS. The operative paragraph of the Moscow communique reads:

The Ministers advocate a peaceful, open and secure Internet space. Considering the Internet a global resource, they are convinced that all states should participate in its evolution and functioning on an equal footing. In particular, the Ministers underlined the primary role of the States in promoting security, stability, and economic cooperation in the use of ICTs. The Ministers emphasised the need to ensure Internet governance based on multilateralism, democracy, transparency with multi-stakeholders in their respective roles and responsibilities.

The reference to “multi-stakeholder” internet governance in the communique is significant for two reasons and possibly unprecedented. First, the suggestion to include this came from India, which in 2015 unequivocally endorsed ‘multi-stakeholderism’. Chinese and Russian interlocutors — plainly aware that India’s multistakeholder line is uniform and has no BRICS variant — agreed to this inclusion, reflecting India’s ability to inject a “Western” norm in a decidedly different setting. Second, the RIC communique was drafted in Moscow, with Russia holding the pen. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is one of the sharpest minds in the business, and Moscow and Beijing agreeing to India’s input on “multi-stakeholder” governance indicates that New Delhi is no longer a pushover at the joint meetings.

That said, give-and-takes are part of multilateral diplomacy. The Moscow communique also emphasises the “need to internationalize Internet governance and to enhance in this regard the role of International Telecommunication Union.” The role of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in Internet governance is contested, given that it is an inter-governmental platform. Its inclusion in the document is a concession from the Indian side, but also an acknowledgement of the role that states play in addressing security related concerns in cyberspace. The BRICS declaration signed at Ufa last year tipped its hat to the UN’s “facilitating role” in Internet policy making. The Moscow communique arguably goes a step further with its pointed reference to the ITU. New Delhi is actively engaged both at the ITU and in multi-stakeholder venues like the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), so the communique does not change any negotiating stance. Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad’s call at ICANN 53 in Buenos Aires for “multi-stakeholder, multi-layered” Internet governance still animates the Indian line.

The larger lesson here is India’s ability to carry its own distinct preferences with the RIC group, which is at the core of BRICS. Consider the international context: China, under President Xi Jinping’s leadership, has supported a state-led “duobian” (multilateral) model of Internet governance. Russia has unwaveringly opposed multi-stakeholderism and it would be remiss to forget the larger, Cold War-levels of antagonism between Moscow and Washington, D.C. today.

The Moscow communique on Internet governance, therefore, is testament to India’s role as the bridge between the liberal international regime and its counter-construct. New Delhi has engaged agnostically with multilateral and plurilateral forums, allowing for its own global orientation to be independent of bigger and dominant players. The RIC meeting suggested it can not only absorb norms but also transmit them, while conditioning their application to the context at hand. Therein lies the value of BRICS for India. The group, especially in light of the political and economic challenges that many of its members face, has long invited criticism for being a talk shop or a forum for solidarity. But it is patently in India’s interests to support a bloc that presents a formidable political challenge to the global order. For one, it helps New Delhi — whose own strategic interests are clear — to influence evolving norms at BRICS. If G20 meetings under the presidency of China this year lead to a confrontation between the great powers — there are many indicators that it may — there are few countries better positioned than India to act as an honest interlocutor. Conversely, its diplomatic “legroom” to manoeuvre multilateral rights-based forums is a strategic lever that India must deploy to assist neighbours and partners like Maldives and Sri Lanka.

Inhabiting these two political universes is not an easy task and the Indian establishment must consider its autonomy before making diplomatic moves, be it with the US, Russia or China. “Alignment” with norms, ideologies or regimes is first and foremost a political act — South Block has realised it is time to harvest them for strategic consequences. Just as India seeks to move political outcomes in its direction, its actions will attract a greater degree of visibility and criticism, for which New Delhi should be diplomatically prepared.

Arun Mohan Sukumar heads the Cyber Initiative and Samir Saran is Vice President at the Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi.