Is China a spoiler in Indo-Greek relations?

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Even as India enjoys a cordial relationship with Greece the Chinese influence on Greece is immense with huge investments and control over strategic assets including Piraeus port which is the largest port in the eastern Mediterranean, and the seventh largest in Europe.

China has a edge in bilateral relations: Indian relations with Greece has been historic but has India given enough importance to the Hellenic state? If we see in terms of the bilateral visit of top leadership then we note that the upcoming visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is coming after over 40 years when Indira Gandhi last visited in 1983.

Before it Indian former President Ram Nath Kovind and Foreign Minister and S. Jaishankar visited Greece in 2018 and 2021 respectively but such bilateral visits could not keep pace with the regular diplomatic maneuvering between China and Greece at the top level.

Greece is a very important destination as it provides a gateway to Europe for the Asian countries but here China has taken a very strategic lead over India.

Diplomatic relations between Greece and India started in May 1950 while China and Greece started their formal partnership from 1980s. Before 1980s Greece remained closely allied to US and European partners but later it started to sought allies elsewhere in its policy of confronting Turkey over the Cyprus and Aegean disputes.

Despite beginning their relation so late Greece and China entered into a strategic partnership in 2006 while India will be signing a strategic partnership with Greece during upcoming visit of PM Modi.

China dominates over India in trade with Greece: Piraeus port in Greece allows China’s transactions with the whole of Europe. The Chinese investment in the port has benefited the Greece as it created many jobs and boosted development in surrounding areas. The port has maintained an annual operating container throughput of over 5 million twenty-foot equivalent units, or TEUs, in recent years, up from 0.88 million TEUs back in 2010. India is reportedly exploring the possibility of using Greece’s Port of Piraeus for its European exports but the Chinese control over the port makes the things difficult for India.

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The relations between the China and Greece has diversified over the period since 1980s when Greece started building partnership with China. The foreign trade between China and Greece was over $12.1 billion in 2021 which increased 55.6 percent year-on-year.

At the same time if we look at the trade between India and Greece it stood at a modest US$ 581.06 Million. Certainly China has upper hand in terms of both trade and investment in Greece.

Greece balancing its act: Despite the influence of China over Greece the Hellenic state has well balanced its relation with India. Greece support India on issues such as Kashmir and also its United Nations Security Council permanent membership on which China has very different opinion. Given Chinese proximity to Pakistan, which is Indian bête noire and have a long dispute with India on Kashmir, Greece will have to take an independent stand point which is not influenced by China.

Also, China has been strongly opposing Indian candidature for UNSC bid in this context it will be interesting to watch how long Greece can delay any pressure on it from the Chinese side on this issue.

Can China be a trusted ally: On the other hand if we look at China which has an expansionist ambition the dragon can never be a trusted ally. Its economic plundering of Pakistan through China–Pakistan Economic Corridor is well known which is also resisted by the local population in Pakistan. Also, in guise of helping nations such as Maldives and Sri Lanka it has caught them in their debt trap.

Whereas India is a matured democracy which is a trusted ally for the international community. Despite India’s limited economic leverage for Greece it is for the latter to decide it wants a belligerent economic power like China to dominate Greece or a trusted ally like India which is well respected for its ancient philosophy of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ (World is a Family).

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