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EU-India Relations

EU-India Relations

27 June 2012

On 26 June FRIDE and the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi held a seminar on EU-India relations. 

Shri Anand Sharma, Indian Minister of Commerce and Industry, said that the EU-Indian strategic partnership was based on shared values including democracy, human rights, freedom of expression and secularism. India also shared the EU’s commitment to multilateralism but hoped to see a stronger voice for the emerging powers, including India, in global institutions. Within the EU, member states play an important role, but India has not lost sight on the importance of the EU. He was confident that the remaining problems on the FTA could be overcome and an agreement signed later this year. EU-India trade was $110 billion in 2011. He thought this could be doubled within five years. He also urged closer cooperation on issues such as social policy.

David O’ Sullivan, Chief Operating Officer of EEAS, agreed that the EU-India strategic partnership was very important although each side was at a very different stage of development. India represented a fascinating civilization and an emerging global power that is shaping global politics. As a huge democracy, India shares many common values with the EU, and both are major trade actors. India, however, often misunderstands how the EU works in terms of diplomacy, security policy particularly after the Lisbon Treaty. India tends to formulate ties with individual member states instead of dealing with the EU as a whole. The benefits of dealing with the EU as a whole needed to be better understood in Delhi. The future priorities could include energy, climate change, counter-terrorism, cyber security and piracy.

On economic relations, Jayshree Sengupta, Senior Fellow at the ORF, said that the Indian economy was not doing well. The agricultural, automobile and banking sectors were the three major sticking points for India regarding the FTA. Liberalisation was not progressing. An FTA would be signed but not this year. There was a problem of lack of transparency in the negotiations. Andre Sapir, Senior Fellow at Bruegel, noted that India exports more to the EU than to the US and China combined. A global trade deal would be preferable to a bilateral FTA but an EU-India was a step forward if it could be finalised. India still faced major challenges in opening its market.

Samir Sran, Vice President of ORF said that as regards energy and climate change the EU and India often talked past each other. For India, the issue is about a better life rather than a cleaner life. There was unlikely to be major transfers from the rich to the poorer countries but the EU could help India on sustainable and efficient energy developments. Christian Wagner, Head of Asia Division, SWP, said that there were useful areas of cooperation on energy such as the clean coal initiative. There was also cooperation on the bilateral level, especially France and Germany’s engagement with India on coal, solar panels and labelling India viewed energy and climate change in the context of development, not as a ‘green’ issues.

In the security panel, Tim Jones (Council) outlined EU concerns about terrorism, especially the fragile situation in Pakistan. Wilson John, VP of ORF, said the EU and India also talked different languages on terrorism. State sponsored terrorism was a real problem in South Asia as some countries offered sanctuaries and turned a blind eye to recruitment. There was, however, no military solution to the problem – only a political solution. Fraser Cameron, EU-Asia Centre, set the security dialogue in a wider context and discussed the different definitions of security. The EU was a security actor in the making so one would have to be patient.

Graham Watson, chair of the EU-India delegation in the EP, concluded the seminar by stating that EU-India relations had not lived up to expectations. The relationship did not have the depth or richness it deserved. Both sides needed to make a bigger effort to demonstrate the benefits to their citizens. Manish Tewari, national spokesperson in the Indian Congress, said there were significant opportunities to deepen relations and he hoped this seminar would contribute to raising awareness.