Script: Prof. UMMU SALMA BAVA, Professor & Jean Monnet Chair, Centre for European Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and The Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte held a virtual Summit, just a few weeks after the Dutch leader won his 4th consecutive election to lead his country. In the pandemic infected world, diplomacy has also been forced to adjust. Bilateral and multilateral meetings have now taken the virtual route as the normal way to conduct relations. Based on long-standing relations, both sides agreed to enhance cooperation in the areas of trade and economy, with special emphasis on water management, agriculture, smart cities and urban mobility, science and technology, public health and larger areas of issue like the Indo-Pacific.
Despite the Covid 19 impact, there has been robust investment on both sides. Trade and commerce has grown. The successful Digital Trade Mission of February 2021 focussed on three new areas of water management, food chains and sustainable energy welcoming the role of Dutch companies in India’s growth initiatives.
The Dutch are recognised leaders in water technology and the bilateral summit launched a new Strategic Partnership on Water to elevate the Joint working Group to the Ministerial level. Using the building blocks of innovation, technology and governance it will seek to enhance the existing projects of river water pollution including river Ganga, delta management, and wastewater management. Agriculture as a means of doubling farmer income focussed on sectors such as horticulture, dairy, aquaculture and poultry.
Both leaders agreed to create 25 new Centres of Excellence under the Indo-Dutch joint Action Plan in the field of agriculture. Commitment to Sustainable Development Goals was also included in the push to biodiversity, conversion of farm waste to energy and support for climate mitigation activities.
In a further push to support smart cities and urban mobility in India, it was agreed to enhance cooperation in Spatial Planning. Water and Mobility Management with a push for pedestrian and cycling infrastructure. Both sides also agreed to a public-private partnership in building entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystems, carry forward additional initiatives under WAH- Water, Agriculture and Health with the use of remote sensing technologies and space collaboration in these areas. In this context, a MoU between the Indian Institute of Space Science (IIST) and the Delft University of Technology (TU-Delft) was also finalised.
The two Prime Ministers stressed the need for cooperation in the fight against Covid19. The Netherlands acknowledged India’s role in global vaccine production. In order to enhance cooperation on public health and health care, it was agreed to expand the cooperation beyond the MoU focussing on Anti-Microbial Resistance to focus on digital health, pharmaceuticals and vaccines. The Netherlands acknowledged the Indian leadership of the Executive Board of the WHO.
In a bid to develop next-generation influenza vaccines, both countries are also partnering under the EU India joint call. Both sides have pushed for setting up biotechnology, R&D and manufacturing ecosystems including the Poonawalla Science Park in Bilthoven. They also welcomed the role of Dutch companies like Philips in the manufacturing of medical equipment and welcomed the role of Dutch companies in India’s Digital Health Mission and the growing joint collaboration in new areas of BIONICS, Oncology and AI for cardiovascular diseases.
India and The Netherlands reiterated their commitment to a rules-based multilateral order that would ensure, peace, stability and prosperity. Further, in the framework of the India-EU relations, both sides agreed to enhance cooperation within the Strategic Roadmap 2025 and welcomed the upcoming Summit in Portugal in May 2021 and the proposal for a comprehensive Connectivity Partnership between India and the EU.
The virtual Summit assumes importance in the context of the rapidly changing geopolitical scenario. India welcomed The Netherlands guidelines on the Indo-Pacific. Both sides agreed to an open and inclusive Indo-Pacific embedded in rule of law and democratic values.
Prime Minister Rutte extended support for a permanent seat in the UNSC for India. Both leaders called upon all countries to combat terrorism. Within the framework of multilateral action, they emphasised Climate Action and their commitments under the Paris Agreement. In addition, cooperation in the International Solar Alliance and the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) also reiterated. In closing, both leaders emphasised people to people contacts and cultural cooperation looking forward to the early conclusion of the comprehensive Migration and Mobility Agreement between India-EU and meeting at the Summit to be held in May 2021.