New Delhi, Apr 19 (PTI) The European Union has decided to reinforce its strategic focus, presence and actions in the Indo-Pacific with a long-term perspective, saying it has 'big stake' in its peace and stability and will work to ensure an architecture that keeps the region 'open and rules-based'.
The grouping of 27 countries came out with a comprehensive strategy for the Indo-Pacific that lists its priorities and vision for the region that the EU said represents the world's 'economic and strategic centre of gravity'.
The EU strategy for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific was adopted on Monday by the foreign ministers of the bloc's member states, demonstrating its recognition of the growing importance of the region.
The EU said the policy initiative sets out its intention to reinforce its strategic focus, presence and actions in the region of prime strategic importance for the grouping's interests.
'The aim is to contribute to regional stability, security, prosperity and sustainable development, at a time of rising challenges and tensions in the region,' it said in a media statement.
It said the renewed EU commitment to the Indo-Pacific, a region spanning from the east coast of Africa to the Pacific Island states, will have a long-term focus and will be based on upholding democracy, human rights, the rule of law and respect for international law.
The EU said it has a 'big stake' in the Indo-Pacific region, and has every interest that the regional architecture remains open and rules-based.
'Current dynamics in the Indo-Pacific have given rise to intense geopolitical competition adding to increasing tensions on trade and supply chains as well as in technological, political and security areas,' it said.
'Human rights are also being challenged. These developments increasingly threaten the stability and security of the region and beyond, directly impacting on the EU's interests,' it added.
Referring to India, the strategy paper said the EU will continue to explore deepening economic relations with India.
The evolving situation in the Indo-Pacific region in the wake of China's increasing military muscle-flexing has become a major talking point among leading global powers.
India, the US, Australia and Japan have vowed to work collectively under the framework Quad or Quadrilateral coalition towards maintaining a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region.
The EU said its approach and engagement will look to foster a rules-based international order, a level-playing field, as well as an open and fair environment for trade and investment, reciprocity, the strengthening of resilience and tackling climate change.
'Free and open maritime supply routes in full compliance with international law remain crucial. The EU will look to work together with its partners in the Indo-Pacific on these issues of common interest,' it said.
'The EU will continue to develop partnerships in the areas of security and defence, including to address maritime security, malicious cyber activities, disinformation, emerging technologies, terrorism, and organised crime,' it said.
The EU said it along with its regional partners will also work together in order to mitigate the economic and human effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and work towards ensuring an inclusive and sustainable socio-economic recovery.
The EU also said it will aim to expand its security and defence dialogue to include more partners and engage strongly in the ASEAN Regional Forum.
The strategy paper said the EU will aim to conclude free trade agreements with Australia, Indonesia and New Zealand and take further steps towards the comprehensive agreement on investment with China. PTI MPB SMN SMN