The 15th edition of the India-EU Summit, scheduled in Brussels on March 13, was postponed due to the Covid-19 virus outbreak. The two sides are holding the summit virtually on July 15 in the backdrop of the disengagement of troops along the Line of Actual Control with China. Ahead of the summit, Josep Borrell, Vice-President of the European Commission, told ET’s Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury that the EU was not naïve about China and will stand firm on values as it strengthens ties with India for a rules-based international order.
1. India and EU both follow the same political systems and values including rules based international order. How can India-EU balance China’s efforts to dominate geo-politics through aggression and unilateral fashion as evident in the current stand-off along LAC?
In world politics, one cannot only work with those with whom we agree or share the same values. We must recognise that we live in a world of competition, of different viewpoints, and strategic objectives.
The European Union is not naive about China, but we are also acutely aware of the need to work with China on the pressing issues of our bilateral relationship and in international affairs. We have to engage in a clear-eyed way, standing firm on our values.
In parallel, we are strengthening our cooperation with other major Asian partners, notably India. As democracies, we are like-minded partners, believing in pluralism and in effective multilateralism based on a rules-based international order. It is on these shared values that we must forge stronger cooperation.
2. What will be the big-ticket outcome from the next summit?
We are working on a new cooperation agenda that will orient our strategic partnership and drive us towards 2025. These areas for cooperation will be wide ranging, from maritime security, connectivity, to increased joint efforts on research and innovation, resource efficiency and the circular economy.
The EU – India partnership will be central in shaping a sustainable, green, innovative and modern post-coronavirus world, where our values are upheld and a rules-based world governance, grounded in multilateralism, can flourish. I am confident that the forthcoming Summit will be an important moment to further strengthen this cooperation.
3. What is your opinion on the efforts to revive FTA negotiations?
The EU and India are two of the world’s largest economies and markets. Our trade is balanced and complementary. The EU is India’s largest trading partner and also one of the largest investors in India with USD 73 billion of cumulative FDI inflows.
Thousands of European firms operate here, creating millions of jobs. In the EU, a number of significant Indian investments have taken place in recent years.
And yet the potential of our economic partnership remains unfulfilled. Ambitious, balanced, fair and comprehensive trade and investment agreements would certainly help to address this, while continuing to work together to strengthen rules-based trade through a reformed WTO.
4. What is the current state of affairs in India-EU strategic partnership and public health initiatives in the context of India’s renewed focus in Europe?
Over the past couple of years, we have been able to broaden significantly our strategic partnership. We have converging interests and priorities, driven by our respective strategic thinking as well as global challenges, for instance in the fight against climate change and in fostering sustainable development.
The EU and India must be leaders in a swift transition to green economies, working together in the areas of energy and resource efficiency.
But also in the digital field and on issues such artificial intelligence and data protection, where, as fellow democracies, the EU and India must combine the need for fair and balanced regulation, fostering innovation, and ensuring that individual rights and freedoms are protected.
This is also true when it comes to cooperation in the health sector. India is now badly hit by the pandemic, and can count on the solidarity and cooperation of the European Union to overcome this challenge.
India is benefitting both from €3.5 million of direct European Commission funds and from €960 million in additional loans from the European Financial Institutions. A global pandemic requires a global response, solidarity and international cooperation.
We will need a vaccine, better therapeutics and more easily accessible diagnostic tests to get out of the crisis. This is a global endeavour where the EU and India have a central role to play.
5. India & EU decided to form military partnership and add more meat to counterterror ties. Can you update on this?
When I visited New Delhi, last January, besides meeting my counterpart Dr Jaishankar, I also had a good conversation with the Defence Minister. I was accompanied by the Chair of the EU Military Committee, General Claudio Graziano, who had the opportunity to interact with his counterparts, the Chief of Defence Staff and the Chief of Naval Staff.
This highlights the increasing EU-India engagement in the security field, including military-to-military contacts.
Reflecting the priority we both attribute to maritime security, the EU and India are working together to counter piracy and escort World Food Programme ships off the Horn of Africa.
In the field of counter terrorism, we are regularly bringing together experts from Europe and India to exchange on best practice and hope that further operational engagement between Europol and India’s law enforcement agencies will soon be possible.
On cyber security, we have a well-established dialogue. EU countries and India are major contributors of troops to UN peacekeeping operations: we can build on our respective experience.