Insights into Editorial: Together in an uncertain world
India was one of the first countries to develop relations with the European Union. The Joint Political Statement of 1993 and the 1994 Co-operation Agreement were the foundational agreements for the bilateral partnership.
In 2004, India and European Union became “Strategic Partners“. A Joint Action Plan was agreed upon in 2005 and updated in 2008.
The EU is India’s largest trading partner with 12.5% of India’s overall trade between 2015 and 2016, ahead of China (10.8%) and the United States (9.3%).
India is the EU’s 9th largest trading partner with 2.4% of the EU’s overall trade. Bilateral trade (in both goods & services) reached €115 billion in 2017.
European Union released its strategy on India after 14 years. This road map replaces 2004 EU-India Declaration on building bilateral strategic partnership.
The European Union and India have upgraded their long-standing relationship to a strategic partnership in 2004, acknowledging their common goals and principles.
Nowadays, in a challenging international environment, the EU and India share the same values of democracy, human rights, fundamental freedoms and support the rules-based global order centred on multilateralism.
The European Union has unveiled a sweeping new vision to significantly scale up ties with India, including closer coordination to forge a multilateral rules-based world order and enhanced military-to-military relations and joint exercises.
India is rapidly integrating with the global economy:
At 1.25 billion, India is the second most populous state and largest democracy in the world. With an annual GDP growth rate in excess of 7.5 % for over a decade it is now in the world’s top ten largest economies (4th by PPP).
As such, India is an important trade and investment partner for the EU, combining a sizable and growing market with one of the fastest growing economies in the world arguably the fastest among the big economies.
Although it is far from the closed market that it was twenty years ago, India still maintains substantial tariff and non-tariff barriers that hinder trade with the EU.
New India Strategy Document:
India needs resources and expertise from EU for various priority areas, such as cyber security, urbanisation, environmental regeneration and skill development.
There is limited partnership which largely remained confined to economics and trade. EU emerged as India’s largest trading partner and biggest foreign investor.
The relationship remained devoid of any strategic content. In fact, EU-India bilateral trade and investment agreement is yet to be concluded.
So, therefore, this comes at an appropriate time, when both have to seriously calibrate their partnership.
The need of the hour is to ensure security sector cooperation to countering terrorism and regional security.
Let us hope for more strategic partnership in the coming future.
The new strategy makes EU trade policy more responsible by basing it on three key principles:
- Effectiveness: Making sure trade actually delivers on its promise of new economic opportunities. That means addressing the issues that affect today’s economy, including services and digital trade.
- Transparency: Opening up negotiations to more public scrutiny by publishing key negotiating texts from all negotiations, as has been done in the TTIP negotiations.
- Values: Safeguarding the European social and regulatory model at home. Using trade agreements and preference programmes as levers to for the worldwide promotion of European values such as sustainable development, human rights, fair and ethical trade and the fight against corruption.
- These three principles ensure that trade policy benefits as many people as possible.
Some of the suggestions made in the strategy paper on India on intensify foreign policy coordination are:
- Upgrade the yearly dialogue between the high representative/vice president of the EU and the Indian minister for external affairs to a regular strategic dialogue.
- Establish regular bilateral, as well as trilateral dialogues on/with Africa, to discuss security, economic issues, as well as connectivity.
- Intensify dialogue on Afghanistan and Central Asia in the appropriate settings.
With the EU trying to build a credible military infrastructure, the joint communication stressed the importance of developing “military-to-military relations with India, including between leaders of the Indian armed forces and the EU military structures, as well as joint exercises”.
The strategy paper states that India still has a “strong reliance on exports and inward investment, and reluctance to open up to imports”.
The new document is sweeping in its scope and lays out a road map for strengthening the EU-India partnership.
The new strategy underscores a transformative shift in Brussels vis-à-vis India and talks of key focus areas:
such as the need to conclude a broader Strategic Partnership Agreement, intensifying dialogue on Afghanistan and Central Asia, strengthening technical cooperation on fighting terrorism, and countering radicalisation, violent extremism and terrorist financing.
More significant from the perspective of the EU, is a recognition of the need to develop defence and security cooperation with India.
Despite sharing a congruence of values and democratic ideals, India and the EU have both struggled to build a partnership that can be instrumental in shaping the geopolitics and geo-economics of the 21st century.
But where India’s relations with individual EU nations have progressed dramatically over the last few years and the EU’s focus on India has grown, it has become imperative for the two to give each other a serious look.
The EU Delegation is at the centre of a vibrant and multi-faceted bilateral relationship that links the EU and India, and it is constantly working to deepen and broaden political ties.
In addition, the Delegation promotes people-to-people contacts and cultural cooperation by sponsoring academic, cultural and media exchanges between India and the EU.
Projects support the implementation of the EU-India Agenda for Action-2020 in areas such as social and human development, ICT, energy, water, climate change, urban development and resource efficiency.
The EU works closely with India to promote peace, create jobs, boost economic growth and enhance sustainable development across the country.