The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi completed a momentous visit to the Hellenic Republic on the invitation his counterpart Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on 25th August 2023. The visit brought about the elevation of the bilateral relationship between the two countries to a strategic partnership which includes vital domains of cooperation such as defence and security, infrastructure, agriculture, emerging technology, mobility and migration, shipping and skill development among others.
Additionally, PM Modi also focussed on the soft politics issues and actors as he addressed the Indian diaspora, the head of International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) in Greece Guru Dayanidhi Das, renowned Greek researcher and musician Konstantinoes Kalaitzis, academicians from the University of Athens and business leaders of both Indian and Greek origin. Premiers of both the countries issued a joint statement at the end of the meeting hinging on deeper collaboration and a re-energised approach on enhancing their seven decades old relationship.
Towards a broader partnership
The diplomatic outreach towards Greece is indeed a step in the right direction considering that New Delhi has learnt to understand and engage with Europe beyond Great Britain. The endeavour to engage with a country on the Balkan Peninsula, especially at the level of heads of state, is a diplomatic outreach which took forty years to materialise. Greece, being located at the crossroads of Asia, Africa and Europe assumes the middle power status and exerts the role of a middle regional power owing to its geographical and political proximity towards them.
Whereas on the global level it’s a gateway to Europe with its islands being distributed along the vast coastline of the Mediterranean Sea thereby enabling it to control the potential energy resources, adding to its strategic location.
Analogically, India is the supreme power in the Indian Oceanic Region (IOR) by the way of its expansive geography, deft political orientation, population, economic foothold and military capabilities. This enables India to exert influence in the wider domain of the Indo-Pacific region which hosts over one third of world’s bulk cargo traffic, two third of world’s oil shipments and crucial sea lines of communication (SLOCs).
On that note, the ongoing India-European Union (EU) Free Trade Agreement (FTA) talks become more relevant and in line with the Prime Minister’s visit to Greece. Having strategic partnership with a pivotal EU member state will only render a better bargain for both the parties considering that India will have a greater access to the huge European market which coincides with the former’s ambitions of becoming a global manufacturing hub backed by its robust Make in India initiative (Atmanirbharta).
On the other hand, Greece will become a transit hub for the Indian goods and services which will boost its logistics industry manifold. As the EU aims to de-risk its supply chain away from China, India can certainly be a suitable and viable alternative to it.
The U.S. Factor
The United States is a global power not only because it holds the world’s largest economy but because relations with it act as a deciding and consequential factor among countries that are engaging with one another. As the case in point, India-U.S. relations are witnessing an unprecedented upswing in their relationship which has often been defined as a Global Strategic Partnership.
The synergies in defence cooperation, space exploration, critical and emerging technology, artificial intelligence and growing people to people ties have only made their partnership stronger and more promising to stand the test of the time. On the other hand, Greece is one of the United States’ closest allies and a vital member to U.S. led collective defence arrangement North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).
Since both India and Greece are edging toward each other, their cordial relations with the U.S. only enables them to align in a more congruent direction by comprehending and respecting each other’s foreign policy objectives and national interests. India’s geography is indeed of great significance in the IOR, but bringing it to fore and strategically fitting it into the Indo-Pacific narrative is attributed to the diplomacy of the White House to which New Delhi has finally come to terms with.
So if Greece uses the lexicon of Indo-Pacific and welcomes the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI) then it’s a calculated move which is made to fit into the current geopolitical dynamics.
All things considered, there have been political and business consultation level meetings at the secretary and ministerial levels in recent years but meeting at the level of the heads of state is a renewed approach. In the joint statement both the leaders thrust the values of democracy and respect for rule of law as the driving force for their organic relationship, however it becomes pertinent to realise that in international politics national interest triumphs over values and merely a certain kind of polity is not enough to ensure cooperation.
Athens and New Delhi supported each other’s respective standing on issues pertaining to Cyprus and Kashmir issue (abrogation of article 370) respectively. Athens has also supported New Delhi’s defence claims pertaining to its stance on refusing to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty 1968 and supported its admission to the Nuclear Suppliers Group 2008.
Therefore, it has been the respect for each other’s standing in the international arena and the resultant cordial relations which flows from the same that has actually brought the two nations together and have given the necessary momentum to enhance their bilateral relationship.