Rebounding after the Covid-19 crisis, the Greek economy in recent years has shown upward employment sentiment, increased investments and growth trends. Once termed as the ‘Black Sheep of the Europe’, around the 2008 global financial crisis, the measured growth of the Greek economy from its debt-ridden condition, backed by a set of progressive economic reforms led by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotaki and the geopolitical shifts from the Mediterranean to Indo-Pacific region, have paved new scope for economic and political cooperation between India and Greece.
Historically speaking, both India and Greece embody a rich cultural heritage as successors of ancient Indo-European civilisations. Their common historical and religious legacy has been a matter of mutual interest and inquiry in academia. In India and in Greece, lessons on language, history and philosophy are taught at universities about both the countries. In the post-colonial age, both the countries established diplomatic relations in May 1950.
The bilateral relationship gradually grew, based on common commitments to values like democracy, peace, development and justice, even through Greece’s military rule period. At the political level, Greece has been with India and has supported Indian positions on Kashmir. It has also supported India’s bid for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Greece also stood behind India’s plan for Nuclear Disarmament, also known as the 1985 ‘Delhi Declaration’, for global peace and stability. After India’s Nuclear Test (1998), despite western sanctions, Greece stood with India and signed a MoU on Defence Cooperation the very same year. During the recent visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi (August, 2023) both the states reiterated a call for a “re-energised approach” to enhance their bilateral relationships.
Under the leadership of Narendra Modi, Indian foreign policy has been actively engaged in diplomatic outreach to many nations, with renewed purpose and sense. Attracting investment and technology, building economic synergies and broadening political-strategic understanding, the concept of ‘effective multilateralism’ captures the geopolitical reality and reflects the rise of many nations in a complex world scenario. Indian foreign policy has been quite adaptive and receptive to these shifts and changes.
In the given background, the visit of The Indian Prime Minister to Athens (after a 40 year hiatus) has upgraded the relationship to the level of a ‘strategic partnership’. In addition, it aims to deepen cooperation in the areas of trade, investments, security, defence, energy, migration, infrastructure, tourism, connectivity and agriculture.
Greece is a key state in the Mediterranean region; it is a member of EU and NATO. It is well placed in the western security network, and aspires to be a ‘key link’ between Europe, the Middle East and the greater Asian region. The interests of the two nations are aligned in this vast area crisscrossed by global supply chains networks, necessary for both India and Greece.
In addition, their strategic ties have a strategic rationale. The presence of China in the Mediterranean region has continuously grown for years. China wants to be a security provider and is well positioned in the region which holds large gas and oil reserves. Moreover, the port of Piraeus, which President Xi Jinping described as an ‘exemplary project’ is the largest in the eastern Mediterranean region and is largely managed by the Chinese.
For Greece, India’s support is also critical in order to face the belligerent military axis formed between Turkey, Azerbaijan and Pakistan. In recent years, Greece has raised its military modernisation and defence expenditures from US$5 billion in 2019 to US$8.4 billion in 2022. During Narendra Modi’s visit both the states have agreed on military cooperation and mutual technology transfers, which is a positive development.
On the economic front, Greece is on a path of economic revival, and has high hopes for Indian investments in strategic sectors like pharmaceuticals, renewables, technologies and agriculture. The two governments signed an agreement on Cooperation in Agriculture and on free workforce mobility between them. Both the leaders also agreed to expand their economic relations and to double the bilateral trade by 2030. They resolved to further strengthen people-to-people ties and expand direct air links between India and Greece.
In contemporary geopolitics, the strategic alignment between India and Greece is well calculated to serve their respective national interests. What is required is a sustained effort to strengthen the evolving bilateral institutional framework based on diversified cooperation and broader diplomatic understanding.