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India’s External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar, visited Brussels for discussions with the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) of the European Union. The visit took place at the invitation of Mr. Josep Borrell Fontelles, European Union’s High Representative/Vice President for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. This was the Indian External Affairs Minister’s first visit to the EU after the assumption of office of the new Commission in December 2019.
The Foreign Affairs Council is constituted by EU High Representative and the 27 Foreign Ministers of the members states of the European Union. It is responsible for the European Union’s external action on foreign policy, defence and security, trade, development cooperation and humanitarian assistance. Dr. Jaishankar shared with the FAC, India’s foreign policy priorities and regional and global perspective. The focus of the exchange was on the common values of the India and European Union, which represent the world’s two largest democracies and their shared commitment to democracy, multilateralism, rules-based international order, rules-based international trade with WTO at its core and sustainable development.
The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell Fontelles was recently in India. He had participated in the Raisina Dialogue, 2020. Reiterating the commonalities between India and the European Union (EU), Mr. Fontelles had observed that ‘the need for both parties to defend a rules-based multilateral order at a time when the blockade of WTO’s settlement dispute mechanism has become a cause of concern for Europe, India as well as many Southeast Asian countries’. The High Representative had informed the Dialogue that the EU has made proposals to break this deadlock. “It is in strong interests of both parties to solve this issue and come up with practical solutions”, he had said.
Strengthening maritime security has become an utmost concern when the global community is threatened by several challenges like piracy and preservation and maintenance of marine resources. Hence, working together is imperative for maintaining maritime security and stability. ‘Operation Atlanta’ was a good example of cooperation with India to counter piracy at sea off the Horn of Africa and in the Western Indian Ocean.
The EU High Representative had emphasised on the need to develop a new roadmap for India-EU strategic partnership in the 2025 horizon, covering cooperation in areas from security, to digital or climate change.Both sides are expected to deepen their engagement – particularly on common priorities such as addressing climate change, safeguarding multilateralism, cooperation in defence, security, connectivity, digital economy, trade and investment as also in the field of defence security and addressing the menace of terrorism. In this context, the Indian External Affairs Minister met Mr. Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice President for European Green Deal, Mr. Phil Hogan, Commissioner for Trade and Ms. Jutta Urpilainen, Commissioner for International Partnership.
Dr. Jaishankar also called on Mr. Charles Michel, President of the European Council of Heads of Government of the 27 member states of the European Union. He apprised President Michel of his discussions with the FAC.
The External Affairs Minister met his Belgian counterpart, Mr. Philippe Goffin, and congratulated him on Belgium’s assumption of the Presidency of the UNSC for February 2020. The two Ministers discussed India-Belgium cooperation in the bilateral context, in multilateral fora as well as regional and global issues of shared interest.
During his one-day visit to Brussels, the Indian External Affairs Minister exchanged views with a group of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) representing various member states and political groupings in the new European Parliament. This was his second such interaction with MEPs.
Analysts are of the opinion that the upcoming India-EU Summit in March 2020 would be a harbinger for the India-EU ties to take an upward trajectory. Negotiations for the India-EU Strategic Partnership 2025 are already underway and a deal is expected to be ready to be approved at the next India-Europe Summit. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to visit Brussels for the Summit. In a post-Brexit EU, India’s ties with the 27 member European Union assumes significance.
Script: Padam Singh , AIR: News Analyst