In Delhi, Von der Leyen warns of Ukraine war impact on Indo-Pacific

European Council President Ursula von der Leyen opens Raisina Dialogue 2022 in Delhi, India. 26 April 2022 [ORF/Raisina Dialogue]

Russia and China’s unrestrained partnership is increasingly becoming a threat to the Indo-Pacific region, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Monday (25 April), in reference to the geopolitical fallout of Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

“Countries battered by two years of COVID-19 pandemic must deal now with rising prices for grain, energy, and fertilisers as a direct result of Putin’s war of choice,” Von der Leyen said at the Raisina Dialogue in Delhi, one of Asia’s leading geopolitical forums hosted by India’s foreign ministry and Observer Research Foundation.

Europe will make sure that Russia’s ‘unprovoked and unjustified” aggression against Ukraine will be a “strategic failure”, Von der Leyen said.

The EU Commission has overseen the adoption of unprecedented sanctions against Russia, hoping that the Kremlin would stop its aggression.

“We want a peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific. It must be free, open, interconnected, prosperous, with a rules-based security architecture that serves all interests,” the EU chief said.

Speaking in Delhi, Von der Leyen called out Russia and China’s revisionist joint statement published in February that had declared an unrestrained bilateral partnership, calling the current security situation “a defining moment”.

Russia and China tell NATO to stop expansion, Moscow backs Beijing on Taiwan

Russia and China called in a joint statement on Friday (4 January) for NATO to halt its expansion while Moscow said it fully supported Beijing’s stance on Taiwan and opposed Taiwanese independence in any form.

“If we consider what it means, for Europe and Asia, that Russia and China forged a seemingly unrestrained pact – they have declared that friendship between them has “no limits”, Von der Leyen asked, adding: “What can we expect from the ‘new international relations’ both have called for?”

She, however, added that the EU would encourage Beijing to play its part in a peaceful and thriving Indo-Pacific.

Defending EU sanctions against Russia, Von der Leyen said they are “never a standalone solution”, urging all members of the international community to support peace efforts. 

India has so far adopted a neutral stance, walking a tightrope in its relations with the West and Russia, which is the country’s largest arms supplier, also by its refusal to openly condemn President Vladimir Putin’s invasion. 

The country has also taken up Russian offers of discounted crude oil.

Von der Leyen, however, during the speech and her whole visit to the country avoided publicly calling on India to revise its position on Russia.

Instead, speaking in presence of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and high-ranking Indian officials, Von der Leyen said that “for the EU, strengthening and energising its partnership with India is a priority in this upcoming decade”.

Earlier on Monday, both leaders established an India-EU Trade and Technology Council (TTC), modelled on a similar transatlantic forum, and announced a relaunch of negotiations aimed at striking a trade deal between the EU and India, which have been stalling for the past eight years.

EU diplomats have said Russia’s war in Ukraine had sped up the procedures when it comes to many strategic partnerships, including strengthening EU-India ties.

EU-India trade talks gain momentum amid Ukraine war

The EU and India are set to announce closer cooperation and an imminent relaunch of negotiations for a comprehensive trade agreement on Monday (25 April), as part of Western efforts to help decrease the world’s second-most populous country’s dependence on Russia, EURACTIV has learned.

(Edited by Georgi Gotev)

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