The European Union and India today resolved to step up counter-terror cooperation besides agreeing to expand engagement in a broad range of areas including maritime security, trade, energy and environment. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini had separate meetings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj during which key issues of common interest were discussed with a focus on further ramping up overall ties. The EU said the two sides resolved to enhance cooperation, both at bilaterally and multilaterally, in combating terrorism apart from agreeing to work closely in dealing with multilateralism, climate change, sustainable development and ensuring free and fair trade. In her meeting with Mogherini, Swaraj condemned the terror attack in Paris yesterday and emphasised that both India and EU should strengthen their cooperation to fight terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and demonstrate firm resolve to show zero-tolerance for such acts.
She called terrorism the “gravest threat” to humanity. Mogherini, who arrived here on a two-day visit, held delegation-level talks with Minister of State for External Affairs M J Akbar during which the EU side is understood to have pushed for early resumption of talks for the long-pending India-EU Broad Based Trade and Investment Agreement. Preparations for the annual India-EU summit, scheduled to be held here later this year, were also reviewed. In a statement, the External Affairs Ministry said both sides discussed ways to take forward talks on the pact. “The two sides reaffirmed their commitment to deepening their strategic partnership. They reviewed progress on the commitments made during 13th India-EU Summit in Brussels in March, 2016 including in the areas of counter-terrorism, migration and mobility,” the MEA said.
On its part, the EU said both sides took stock of progress made on decisions taken at last year’s EU-India summit and agreed to deepen cooperation in a broad range of areas like security and defence, trade, investment, climate change, water, new and renewable energy, environment, ICT, space and technology. The two sides also decided to strengthen people-to-people contacts, including student exchanges through the Erasmus programme. The EU said it and India have a direct interest in the stabilisation of many fragile areas such as the Korean Peninsula and Afghanistan. “EU is one of India’s largest trading partners with bilateral trade in goods reaching USD 85 billion in 2016. EU is also the largest destination for Indian exports and a key source of investment and cutting edge technologies. “India seeks enhanced level of investments from EU companies in its flagship programmes like Clean India, Namami Gange, Skill India, Start-Up India, Smart Cities, renewable energy and next-generation infrastructure,” the MEA said.
It said India greatly values its multi-faceted strategic partnership with European Union and the two seek to strengthen multilateralism and rules-based global order for the peace and prosperity for one and all. The BTIA has been a major issue in ties between India and the EU. The BTIA talks have been stalled since May 2013 when both sides failed to bridge substantial gaps on issues like data security status for the IT sector. Launched in June 2007, negotiations for the proposed agreement have witnessed many hurdles as both sides have major differences on crucial issues. In the last EU-India Summit in Brussels, the two sides had failed to make any announcement on resumption of the negotiations as many bottlenecks still remained. The two sides are yet to iron out issues related to tariff and movement of professionals but the EU has shown an inclination to restart talks.
Besides demanding significant duty cuts in automobiles, the EU wants tax reduction in wines, spirits and dairy products, and a strong intellectual property regime. On the other hand, India is asking the EU to grant it ‘data secure nation’ status. The country is among nations not considered data secure by the EU. India’s bilateral investment pacts with several European countries are expiring and citing this, the EU has been strongly pushing for moving ahead with the trade agreement. The EU has been maintaining that expiry of the pacts will make it difficult for European countries to go for fresh investments in India.