The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell Fontelles was recently on a visit to India where he participated in the Raisina Dialogue, 2020. Reiterating the commonalities between India and the European Union (EU), Mr. Fontelles conveyed 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. In this regard, the High Representative informed 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.
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 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. Negotiations for this partnership has already begun and will be ready to be approved at the next India-Europe summit to be held on 13 March, 2020.
Another significant area on which the two sides need to work on is jointly devising ways and means to minimise the impact of climate crisis. Defence and implementation of the Paris climate agreement is crucial in this connection, given the fact that it creates a framework for the transparent monitoring, reporting, and augmenting of countries’ individual and collective climate goals. Implementing it successfully would require concerted efforts of sharing responsibilities and acting together to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
A positive development has been the agreement between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and European leaders on an EU-India Clean Energy and Climate Partnership (CECP) in 2016 which aims to reinforce cooperation between EU and India on climate change and energy with a view to ensure a secure, clean, affordable and reliable energy supply for all and to progress in the implementation of the Paris Agreement. India and the EU have come together on several occasions to voice their support against terrorism, extremism and radicalisation. The EU and India in the past have underlined the importance of continuing the progress made in defeating terrorist forces in Europe, South Asia and Middle East. There is effective mechanism as well where the two sides have focussed on tackling violent extremism. In this regard, EU-India Counter Terrorism workshops have helped to bring together Indian and European experts, to emphasise on capacity building, identifying, preventing and countering online propaganda, and investigating and countering ISIS terror networks.
Trade is one domain where the EU and India need to step up their efforts. Both parties must emphasise on restarting negotiations on the India-EU Free Trade Agreement (FTA). For that to happen, some flexibility must be introduced from both the sides. The EU doesn’t see investment as part of the FTA and insists that it will sit on the negotiating table only when there is a convergence of views on certain basic issues like market access for automobiles and alcohol and inclusion of government procurement and labour standards. On the other hand, India objects to EU’s attempt to include labour and human rights issue for which it suggests separate working groups.
Mr. Fontelles stated that a productive India-EU Summit in March 2020 could lead to expansion of the strategic partnership and enhance cooperation on defence and trade. India and the EU have shared priorities and commitment, which include preserving the values of democracy, multilateralism and rules-based international order. Also, as both India and the EU share a common vision of an inclusive and open policy perspective on the Indo-Pacific, they should come together for joint adoption of policies and strategies conducive towards building a safe and secure rules-based regional and international order.
Script: Dr. Sanghamitra Sarma, Strategic Analyst for European Affairs