by Vishal Wilde
Logistically feasible and strategically desirable
Logistically, given contemporary geopolitics, it would also be feasible. India has a sizeable Navy and, with the cooperation of European member-states (such as Britain, whose Royal Navy has a massive presence in the Mediterranean) could easily evacuate refugees from the refugee camps that have become a very sensitive, socially and politically-charged topic in Europe. However, this does not address the plight of those who are currently suffering within the Middle East itself and I will now turn to this and how India could also feasibly and peacefully intervene there.
Firstly, to traverse through the regions may be seen as a difficulty but India currently enjoys (and, indeed, has historically enjoyed) warm relations with both Iran and Afghanistan. Even if the journey is seen to be too arduous, it may also be feasible for India to actually temporarily deploy personnel to rapidly evacuate refugees from the region. India has enjoyed and continues to enjoy close ties with Russia and the Russian government is a key stakeholder in Syria so Assad may be more inclined to allow India to temporarily deploy personnel (even in a limited capacity) in order to help alleviate the suffering in his war-torn country by offering its inhabitants an alternative.
As an aside, this would also allow India to showcase its enhanced prowess on the international stage and possibly even significantly and positively contribute to its pitch for a permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council (which it has long sought).
Economically beneficial and improving trade relations with the European Union
In terms of economic hardship, India still enjoys relatively high growth rates compared to the rest of the world so its inhabitants are more likely to be receptive to an influx of refugees than European Union member-states’ inhabitants because jobs and opportunities are easier to come by. Although housing remains a problem in India, due to the cultural similarities noted above and the willingness of many Indian peoples to help those in need, there will be plenty of scope for voluntary contributions and coordination from individuals, families, communities and society at large which would only require a marginal increase in expended government resources. Furthermore, the European Union only has a population of 508 million whereas India has an estimated population of over 1.25 billion.
More interesting, however, is the fact that European governments would be quite indebted to India since they would then have found a feasible solution to the crisis. Of course, it is tragic that humanity has been reduced to bartering with peoples’ lives as currency but it seems to be the case that that is how diplomacy is conducted contemporarily. By helping to alleviate the influx of refugees from the Middle East to Europe, India would gain an advantage in subsequent trade negotiations since the Syrian refugee crisis is a significant factor that has helped galvanise significant, anti-EU sentiment. Indeed, the European Commission website states about India, under its ‘Trade’ and ‘Policy’ sections that:
“The EU and India are committed to further increase their trade flows in both goods and services as well as bilateral investment and access to public procurement through the Free Trade Agreement negotiations that were launched in 2007.
Substantial progress has been made so far, and key areas that need to be further discussed include improved market access for some goods and services, government procurement and geographical indications, and sustainable development.
- India is an important trade partner for the EU and an emerging global economic power. The country combines a sizable and growing market of more than 1 billion people.
- The value of EU-India trade grew from €28.6 billion in 2003 to €72.5 billion in 2014.
- EU investment stock in India is €34.7 billion in 2013.
- Trade in commercial services quadrupled in the past decade, increasing from €5.2billion in 2002 to €23.7 billion in 2013.”
In this way, India can play its part not only in alleviating a horrific contemporary humanitarian disaster but it can also augment its national security capabilities, its economic growth and bargaining power, solidify its status us an up-and-coming, promising superpower in international relations (through helping to ensure the European Union does not disintegrate, for example) outside of its region, as well as, showcase its commitment to a diverse and tolerant society wherein people of many faiths, cultures and so on coexist peacefully together despite media rhetoric to the contrary. India, like all other countries, is a country that has been formed and shaped by migration but, at the moment, it may be far more feasible and even desirable for India to take in refugees from the Middle East than for other nations to do so.