India to play a prominent role in our Indo-Pacific strategy: Lithuania’s Egidijus Meilunas
كتب: هاني كمال الدين
- في سعينا المستمر لتقديم المعرفة والتحليل العميق، تقدم لك رأي الأمة موضوعًا مثيرًا بعنوان India to play a prominent role in our Indo-Pacific strategy: Lithuania’s Egidijus Meilunas . هذا الموضوع له أهمية كبيرة ويحمل العديد من الجوانب المثيرة والمعلومات القيمة. سنقدم لك في هذا المقال تحليلًا شاملاً ومعلومات تساعدك في فهم عميق لهذا الموضوع وتزويدك بالأدوات والمعرفة التي تحتاجها للاستفادة منه بشكل أفضل. دعونا نبدأ!
In November 2021, Lithuania – a tiny Baltic country with a population of 2.7 million – picked up a fight with China when it allowed Taiwan to open a de-facto embassy in its capital Vilnius. Since then, China has downgraded its diplomatic relationship with the nation and has blocked most of its trade over what it calls a violation of the ‘One China’ policy. Interestingly, India and Lithuania’s trade and diplomatic relations are on an upswing.Egidijus Meilunas, vice-minister of foreign affairs of Lithuania, was in New Delhi last week for Foreign Office Consultations (FOC) with India. During the meeting, both sides reviewed bilateral engagements and exchanged views on regional and global issues of mutual interest, including developments in respective neighbourhoods, EU, Ukraine conflict, India’s Presidency of G20, cooperation in multilateral fora, and UNSC reforms.
Meilunas also participated in the second CII India-Nordic-Baltic Business Conclave and spoke exclusively to Economic Times online on a range of foreign policy issues. Below are the edited excerpts.
What is your view on China’s expansionist Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and what are the western countries doing to counter it, which has been under an eye of a storm due to its debt policies?
Under current geopolitical circumstances, the EU’s Global Gateway and other like-minded connectivity initiatives, such as the G7 PGII (partnership for global infrastructure and investment) acquire a particular importance and could serve as a good tool to try to win hearts and minds of the Global South, prone to opaque influences of other global actors, such as China’s BRI.
Indeed, it is important to underline that EU’s Global Gateway is a qualitatively attractive alternative if compared to other public infrastructure investment offers in the world. It is a transparent, market-rules based good value for money option to our partners across the globe and particularly in the developing world, keen to improve their infrastructure, perform green and digital transition and achieve SDG’s. Global Gateway is an offer to developing countries that is very hard to refuse in view of its transformative effect, quality, and sustainability.
The Global Gateway has a great potential of projecting EU’s positive, concrete and result-oriented approach. It is closely coordinated with connectivity efforts of other like-minded partners, especially in G7 framework. Some important first flagship projects of the Global Gateway were launched this year and the pace and scope of this initiative will grow bigger and stronger as we will be entering the second year of its implementation in 2024 (with some projects on sustainable urbanisation and mobility solutions offered also to India).
“India has a prominent role to play in our strategy. We want to foster our bilateral cooperation from economic, political to cultural and people-to-people contacts.”
For Lithuania what matters in terms of projection of those European connectivity efforts is also the strengthening of such emerging supply chains as the Middle Corridor (across the Black Sea, Caucasus and Central Asia) but also the newly established IMEEC (India, Middle East, Europe Economic Corridor), which was announced at the G7 meeting in India in September this year. In our view, those two corridors not only have the potential of bolstering economic development and fostering connectivity and economic integration between Asia and Europe, but they also offer a genuine alternative to the Northern trade corridor across Russia, which in European view, lost its credibility and validity after the unprovoked and despicable Russian aggression against Ukraine.
Let me also draw your attention to the fact that Lithuania and Central Europe in general have established their own like-minded connectivity platform, called the Three Seas initiative, which is an indigenous central European alternative to such interferences from outside as the 14+1 format brought by China in the context of BRI. The beauty of the Three Seas Initiative is that serves a natural geographic entry point to the Single European market for the above-mentioned supply chains coming to Europe through Middle corridor or India-Middle East-Europe corridor. Therefore, we invite India to closely cooperate with our region also through this platform.
Can you share more details about Lithuania’s new Indo-Pacific strategy that highlights the need to engage with the region for a secure, resilient, and prosperous future. How crucial do you think India is to this strategy?
Lithuania’s government adopted and released its Indo-Pacific strategy: “For a secure, resilient and prosperous future,” giving a blueprint and a strong impetus to our country’s further engagement in the region. Over the last couple of years, Lithuania has shaped its foreign policy decisions to widen and embed its diplomatic footprint in the Indo-Pacific, where we see numerous cooperation opportunities. In elaborating this strategy, we took a closer look at both our own strengths and priorities and needs and interests of different state actors and other partners in the Indo-Pacific. We identified three main areas of cooperation:
- Security policy – resilience building; economic cooperation
- Targeted action aimed at mutual benefit
- Soft power and network-building – staying connected in the region.
Lithuania now stands out among European countries for its exceptionally hawkish stance toward Beijing. How did this take shape and why?
First of all, I must underline that the current shape of relations with China was not of Lithuania’s choice. It was the Chinese government’s decision to escalate the tension and impose unjustified economic pressure against Lithuania. For several years, Lithuania had been expanding her relations with the Indo-Pacific and had opened her missions in South Korea, Australia, and Singapore. Our representative office in Taiwan was a part of this strategy. Importantly, it was in line with the established practices of other European nations.
In the end, I believe we have reached a new balance where our sovereignty and our national interests have been defended. The European and transatlantic solidarity helped us a lot. In the year that followed, we diversified our trade with Asia, and today our trade with the Indo-Pacific region has expanded significantly, compensating for the losses in China. If you ask me whether the ‘losing’ of the Chinese market still stresses us out, the answer is not anymore.
Lithuanian experience in its relations with China allows you to share lessons learned in resisting pressure with the countries in the Indo-Pacific and beyond. Anything specific Lithuania has shared with India?
Lithuania is willing to undertake a more pro-active role in contributing to resilience-building, especially by advancing the response capabilities of like-minded and similar-minded countries in the Indo-Pacific region. These years Lithuania has experienced and withstood China’s economic coercion, becoming a test case for resilience and now spearheading the debate within the EU on the need to reform its approach to China.
Given the interests of our partners in the Indo-Pacific, especially smaller states, Lithuania stands prepared to share its expertise in defence and societal resilience vis-à-vis conventional and unconventional threats. We are also eager to foster other types of exchanges and practical cooperation in security and defence with the countries of the Indo-Pacific through established multilateral formats and regular bilateral consultations.
Our course of action will be complementary to the sustained efforts of NATO and EU and aimed at keeping the Indo-Pacific free, open, and within the framework of international rules.
European countries such as Germany, France, the UK, the Netherlands, and the Czech Republic have released their own Indo-Pacific strategies, as has the European Union. All have emphasised the need to deepen engagement in the strategically crucial region, but Lithuania stands out among the Baltic countries in the uncommonly strong language it uses regarding Beijing. How is your strategy different from the rest of countries?
This strategy aims to contribute to the implementation of the EU strategy for co-operation in the Indo-Pacific. It is crucial that the voice of the EU is unified in its relations with China, as well as in cooperating with the countries in the Indo-Pacific, so that we could abandon divisive formats and initiatives.
Lithuania stationed Margiris Abukevicius, a former deputy defence minister, in Tokyo as a defence adviser to its embassy and its Ministry of Defence representative for the Indo-Pacific, to strengthen security engagement with Japan and other like-minded countries in the region. Any such plans for India?
In our I-P strategy it is stated India is to play a prominent role. We will aim at mutually beneficial cooperation with India, the largest democracy and one of the largest economies in the world. This year, with the opening of the Indian embassy in Vilnius, we witness a very positive momentum in our bilateral relations. We have to work together to foster our economic and trade relations, very glad that our trade turnover and exports are increasing. I am confident that in due time will be considering about developing our bilateral security and defence dialogue with India.
What are Lithuania’s views on aggressive China’s stance in the Indo-pacific? Does India and Lithuania have a collective view?
The overarching goal of Lithuania’s engagement in the I-P region is to strengthen the rules-based international order, including on countering any form of political and economic coercion and strengthening resilience. In this context, we will be organising a high-level conference on economic resilience, to which India will be invited.
India’s leadership in G20 in upholding peace and security, both regionally and globally, cannot be overstated. We count on India’s strong unwavering commitment to the rules-based order, its dedication to fostering dialogue and cooperation, and its firm support for the preservation of international law.
In September 2021, Lithuania’s National Cyber Security Centre reported that phones manufactured by PRC corporation, Xiaomi, had a default capability to censor a list of at least 449 phrases. This “feature” was inactive in phones shipped to Europe according to the Lithuanian report but could be activated remotely. Can you share what is this? Also, elaborate how China seeks to reshape the global information environment.
Lithuania is ready to share its lessons learned with partners in Indo-Pacific in countering cyber threats from Russia and China. We will continue to facilitate consultations in order to strengthen mutual resilience and to abate rising tensions utilising existing formats, such as the Regional Centre for Cybersecurity or the NATO Energy Security Centre and embrace new initiatives. Within our strategy we intend to cooperate with India on cyber security.
Bilateral cooperation is undertaken under US-led Counter Ransomware Initiative. Lithuania and India lead information-sharing effort through Lithuania’s Regional Cyber Security Centre and Indian National Cyber Security Coordinator’s centre.
Second war has begun in the form of Israel and Hamas which makes this a more complicated situation for the West.
Lithuania fully supports Israel’s right to defend its people in line with the humanitarian and international human rights law. At the same time, we must continue calling on Israel to avoid collective punishment and refrain from actions that would go against international humanitarian law and might lead Palestinian people to suffer the humanitarian catastrophe. We express our deep concern over the escalation of violence by the extremist settlers in the West Bank.
Lithuania reiterates the urgency of much-needed humanitarian aid to Gaza people. The EU together with Arab states and other interlocutors have to ensure a continuous flow of necessary humanitarian aid to those most vulnerable and must play a much more visible and operational role on this.
The way Israel conducts its military operation in Gaza will have a profound impact on the wider regional situation and we must do everything in our power to avoid a regional conflict as the risk of a spillover is real.
As the eyes of the world are focused on the conflict in the Middle East, we see Russia taking advantage by drawing world’s attention from Ukraine. The situation in Gaza is used to revoke a “West-against-the rest” narrative. Russia is heavily benefiting from it, using the opportunity to strengthen influence in the Middle East and Global South. We cannot stay silent while Russia still dances dirty tango with Iran.
It seems that Israel is working on many possible scenarios on the plan for the moment of “the day after”. Dedicated proposals on deliberate or even voluntary emigration of Gazans are unacceptable and do not foster the possible peace talks. Eventually, of course, we will need to heavily invest into the relaunching of the Middle East Peace Process, Peace Day Effort proposals should be placed on the table again.
Can you share more details on the military aid for Ukraine and why is the West not able to curtail the war yet.
Russia’s war against Ukraine is driven by Russia’s imperialist and colonial ambition to retain Ukraine in its sphere of influence. It is in everyone’s interest to protect a rules-based international order where borders cannot be redrawn by force.
Russia can end the war very quickly by withdrawing its military and troops from Ukraine. Russia has no business in Ukraine. The aggressor should not set the terms of negotiations. Ukraine should not be forced to succumb to Russian demands to give up parts of its territory. The Minsk Agreements are an example that such a deal with Russia will only program further insecurity and instability in the future.
Ukraine has set out its plan for just and sustainable peace – the Peace Formula – based on respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity which has a broad support by international community.
Lithuania’s top priority remains supporting to Ukraine, including by providing military support, until its victory. In total, our assistance provided to Ukraine so far is worth of over EUR1 billion, or around 1.5% of GDP, and half of it is military assistance. Lithuania’s assistance to Ukraine this year so far includes Mi-8 helicopters, L-70 anti-aircraft guns with ammunition, M113 armoured personnel carriers, millions of ammunition rounds, radiolocation equipment kits, and different other aid.
Besides military vehicles and equipment, Lithuania also provides active training assistance to the Ukrainian military, takes in injured service members for medical care, arranges expert consultations and contributes financially to international funds of assistance to Ukraine. Lithuania has also approved a long-term assistance plan for Ukraine: a new EUR 200 million-worth package is planned for 2024–2026.
مصدر المعلومات والصور: economictimes