Script: TRIPTI NATH, Senior Journalist
The recent telephonic conversation between India’s External Affairs Minister, Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and his Portuguese counterpart, Augusto Santos Silva, reviewed preparation for the forthcoming India-European Union (EU) Summit in Portugal.
The 16th India-EU leaders’ Summit, a significant event on the diplomatic calendar is scheduled to take place in May in Porto, Portugal’s second-largest city. Portugal is the southern European country, which took over the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union on January 1 this year, a charge it has held for the fourth time. Lisbon will carry on with this role until June 30, 2021, and will be succeeded by Slovenia. The Portuguese début in these rotating presidencies dates back to January 1992.
The Portuguese historical presence in India goes far beyond Goa and has left long-lasting cultural and civilizational imprints in both nations. The Portuguese Prime Minister, Antonio De Costa, traces his roots to Goa. The official visits of Portugal’s Prime Minister António Costa and President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa to India in 2019 and 2020 respectively clearly demonstrate the significance Portugal attaches to India.
The Portuguese expect that the meeting of leaders of India and the EU will be a historic milestone that will propel our relationship to a new level.
Although there is no official confirmation yet from India on the participation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the India-EU summit, the Ambassador of Portugal to India, Mr Carlos Pereira Marques has said in an article 5 in a leading Portuguese daily last month, that on May 8, the Prime Minister of India will be there for the first time, with his 27 European counterparts. This will be followed by a bilateral meeting between Narendra Modi and Prime Minister António Costa. The Portuguese Ambassador to India also wrote that on the fringes of the EU-India and India-Portugal meetings the same day, the Prime Ministers of both countries are expected to open, an exhibition entitled India in Portugal-A Time of Artistic Confluences.
Mr. Pereira Marques has said that the Porto meeting is viewed with great expectation by India and the EU. “ At the head of the dossiers under discussion is, of course, that of the desirable conclusion, within time horizon to be defined, of a Free Trade and Investment Protection Agreement, an instrument whose operationalization we consider to be essential, not only for economic and commercial reasons but also geopolitical. Its implementation will undoubtedly constitute a giant step in bringing India closer to the EU.”
The Portuguese Ambassador has drawn attention to the fact that the first EU-India institutional summit was held in Lisbon during the Portuguese presidency of the EU in 2000. In another interview early this month, the Portuguese Ambassador said, “Our Presidency has five main priorities, which actually are also major targets for India: Green Transition, Digital Transition, Strengthening of the Social Dimension, Resilience and Openness to the World. This last priority especially touches upon India.”
Speaking last November at a discussion at the Centre for European Policy Studies, India’s External Affairs Minister made a mention of a very strong dialogue with Portugal, hailed the India EU policy and wished the need for a strategic EU with an Asia strategy and a world strategy.
India-EU relations go back to the early 1960s. The EU is the second-largest export destination for India, after the US, with exports in April-March 2019-20 at $45 billion accounting for 14.36 per cent of the country’s total exports. Imports from the bloc into India were at par with exports at $45 billion during the fiscal, accounting for 9.5 per cent of India’s total imports.
EU is India’s largest trading partner and investor and accounts for 11% of India’s global trade. Close to 6,000 EU companies are present in India: They create good jobs for over 6 million people.
Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh is the fifth metro rail project to receive European Investment Bank funds in India and is the biggest investment made by the bank outside the EU. The total EIB investment in connectivity projects and green infrastructure in India is now 2.6 billion euros.