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India-EU summit: Opportunities and Challenges

Updated: Jul 25


BY: Vinod Subramanian



Delhi-Brussels connect in a post COVID-19 world


The 15th India-European Union Summit will be held virtually on Wednesday. This comes in the backdrop of growing Chinese aggression across the world, fragile economies on the verge of collapse and an opportunity for India and Europe to rebuild a new international world order based on fostering respect for rule of law. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the European Union officials will focus on ways and means to prevent the spread of the pandemic and reverse its damaging economic, social, political effects. 


The two sides will focus on matters in the following areas and hope to forge a new relationship:


Economic

With a slowdown being experienced across the European economies and a strong urge to encourage protectionism, the economic relations with India may witness further tensions.

The two sides are yet to sign the Bilateral Investment and Trade Agreement. Issues pertaining to India’s data protection laws, access to the Indian automobile market and the beverage sector, especially wine and the movement of natural persons have been causes for concerns for both sides.

The bilateral trade is worth around EUR 100 billion and Europe is also amongst the largest investors in India.

Documents published by the European Union reveal that the bloc hopes to diversify its investments and markets and hopes to reduce its reliance on China. The EU is also opposed to the One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative. EU will also be looking to fortify its economic partnership with India as Britain negotiates to leave the bloc. 


This then offers a perfect opportunity for India to fill this gap. Both sides should progress towards gradually removing the irritants mentioned above to seal their economic partnership. 


India should also seize this opportunity to help its enterprises adapt to the changes and seek European cooperation for achieving its stated aims of empowering its citizens through various missions such as the Skill India initiative, Digital India initiative and the Smart Cities project amongst others. 


Defence/ Strategic 


It was in the year 2004 that the two sides signed the Strategic Partnership Agreement. Presently, how can the two countries cooperate?


To under this, let us look at some of the issues of mutual concern between India and the European Union. 


Firstly, various acts of Chinese belligerence in the South China Sea have prompted the EU to extend its support to the ASEAN group of nations. India along with the other nations is playing a critical role in the region. 

Moving towards the West of India, three important issues prompt close consideration. The situation in Afghanistan, issues pertaining to Iran and the overall situation in Syria. 


In all these issues, India and EU have common interests in protecting freedom of peaceful negotiation, in ensuring that the Afghan peace talks are Afghan-led and Afghan-owned and in ensuring that the Persian Gulf remains peaceful. 


This is the ideal time for India and the EU to upgrade their relationship to that of a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. 


To avoid US sanctions under CAATSA, the two sides can explore the alternate source of funding and ensuring that trade with Iran remains uninterrupted. EU can help India bring back the Chabahar port development project back on track. 


Achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s)


EU is already a partner of India and is assisting it in achieving various sustainable development goals pertaining to clean drinking water projects, clean energy projects, increasing nutritional security and in building sustainable cities. 


COVID-19 has brought the focus back on the concept of one health and sustainable development. 


The latter is not a mere concept and COVID-19 has enforced the idea strongly. India will have to move towards focusing its energies on it. 


Prime Minister Narendra Modi has reinstated the government’s focus on renewable energy. 

Germany and France have invested in various projects in this regard. 

Wednesday’s meeting will provide yet another opportunity for both sides to move forward in this regard and forge a meaningful partnership. 


EU will also play a critical role in ushering in the fourth industrial revolution in India. The vibrant Indian service sector can benefit from European expertise in new and emerging technologies such as Artificial technology and Machine Learning.

The ongoing 5G trials in India also offers various European telecom companies, an opportunity to tap into a market with billion people. 


New International Order 


COVID-19 has exposed the limitations of various International Organizations and has severely impacted its functioning. 


The global order is also experiencing major turbulence in the form of various geopolitical tensions, trade wars and changing socio-economic conditions. 

New Delhi and Brussels can take the lead in ensuring that the new world order that is emerging is one that ensures respect towards rule of law, mutual trust and one that facilitates peace and prosperity. 



The road ahead is not going to be an easy one. India and the EU have several irritants. Apart from the economic ones mentioned above, India detests European interference in its internal matters. Six resolutions pertaining to the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the Delhi riots, issue of National Registry of Citizens (NRC) in Assam and other human rights issues have been tabled in the European Parliament. The EU will do good to realise that many of these issues are matters that are sub judice and the highest court of the land has been seized of the issues. Under these circumstances, it would be disastrous for any foreign entity to interfere in India’s internal matters. 



*All arguments made and viewpoints expressed within Youth In Politics and its nominal entities do not necessarily reflect the views of the writers or the organization as a whole.

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