Narratives for Europe: Reading Room - Rajendra K. Jain

Rajendra K. Jain

is Chairperson and Professor at the Centre for European Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University. He is Jean Monnet Chair and Adjunct Professor (Research), Monash European and EU Studies Centre, Monash University, Melbourne.  He is currently Visiting Professor, Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’homme, Paris (May 2013) and will be Visiting Fellow, NFG Research Group "Asian Perceptions of the EU", Free University of Berlin (June and August 2013).

Prof. Jain has participated in nearly 150 national/international conferences, including 90 conferences in various parts of the world. He has delivered nearly 40 lectures on contemporary Europe and India-Europe/EU/EU-South Asian affairs at leading American, Asian and European universities and think tanks. Prof. Jain is the author/editor of a number of books, including the forthcoming India and the European Union in a Changing World  and has published 95 articles/chapters in books.

Professor Rajendra K. Jain speaks at the Dwarfing of Europe event in Amsterdam

Indian Perspective: Abstract

For over three centuries, there has been extensive historical, ideological and intellectual proximity between India and Europe. European ideas and values have profoundly influenced India's English-educated elites, its freedom struggle, its political life and political leadership. Indians sought to emulate Europe by trying to adopt and adapt Western value systems and Western institutions to the Indian milieu. In recent decades, many of the historical and cultural bonds and terms of reference which traditionally linked India with Britain and, in turn, Europe have considerably withered away. India’s interaction with Continental Europe continues to be thin and limited. For the great majority of Indians, most of Europe is a strange land, an exotic place for tourism to which only a privileged layer of society has had access. There continues to be an enormous information deficit about Europe in India largely because of mutual indifference and neglect. 

Europe has become increasingly important in the Indian foreign policy calculus since the 1990s as a vital source for foreign direct investment, advanced technology, and modern arms. India views the European Union as a major pole in the emerging multipolar world, but not as a potential counterweight to the United States. It is widely acknowledged as an economic superpower and a formidable negotiator in multilateral trade negotiations. However, despite a strategic partnership, India and the European Union have not been able to transform shared values into shared interests and shared priorities because of a big disconnect in world-views, mindsets and practical agendas. These fundamental differences will remain because the two are at different levels of development, come from two different geo-political milieus and have different geographical and geopolitical priorities. The Eurozone crisis has tended to reinforce perceptions of a continent in relative decline. However, Europe is considered to be resilient enough to adapt the challenges of 2 globalization and influence global events for a long time to come. Europe continues to be critical for India’s own future and as a vital development partner in its modernization. Most educated Indians perceive Europe to be social and cultural protectionist. Europe, they feel, confronts social and political difficulties in dealing with its diversity of cultures, that multiculturalism does not seem to be working in Europe, and that European societies have not been able to meaningfully integrate non-Western ethnic minorities, especially Muslims. As a fascinating laboratory of interdependence, there is much that India can learn from European experiences in regional integration. A dialogue on Islam with India – which has the second largest Muslim population in the world and with whom it has peacefully coexisted for centuries – may offer new insights into integrating Muslims in Europe. 

A worsening demographic profile with a graying population is compelling the European Union to address the problems and opportunities of in-sourcing highly skilled immigrants or outsourcing services. There is considerable potential for India and Europe to move increasingly towards partnership in cutting-edge technologies in a manner with combines India’s strengths with European capabilities. India and Europe need to widen and deepen civil society linkages and build a more robust framework of educational, cultural and elite exchanges. 

India and Europe often talk at each other rather than to each other. If we are to graduate from a dialogue of the deaf to a meaningful dialogue which seeks creative solutions to contemporary problems, Europe needs to shed its traditional Eurocentrism and revise its mental maps about the emerging powers in a rapidly changing world. 

Narratives for Europe Reading Room

We invite you to read the contributions from journalists, researchers, writers who are, as we, investigating and questioning European Narratives and their making in the present and the future.