Notwithstanding the failure to kick-start free trade agreement discussions with India, the European Union has firmed up plans to widen its strategic and business arrangements. For this, it has prepared an action plan of key deliverables it expects to achieve at the India-EU bilateral summit expected to be held early next month, senior officials at the European Council and the European External Action Service told The Indian Express on the condition of anonymity.
“A string of joint declarations along with a concrete deliverables roadmap are expected to be inked and these would be around climate change, clean energy, maritime security, naval cooperation, space research, to combatting cybercrime and even ringing in an ambitious partnership for developing smart cities by linking EU’s urban agenda with the Modi government’s 100 smart cities mission,” according to one of the officials cited above.
The plans for the 14th bilateral summit were discussed at a meeting between EU’s high representative and vice president Federica Mogherini and Indian external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj at New Delhi in April. Both parties had discussed common concerns like trade, counter-terror cooperation, maritime security and defence cooperation.
The summit is also likely to witness the European Investment Bank (EIB) announcing a loan for the Bengaluru Metro project, the official said, without divulging the loan amount. This would be the second major loan by the EIB for an urban mass transportation project after the €400-million loan it extended earlier for the recently-launched Lucknow Metro project.
Brussels, however, was concerned with the stagnation in the FTA discussions and pointed out the “protectionist approach” of Indian negotiators in the talks, especially in the context of the ‘Make in India’ project.
“India’s national development priorities are such that it drives the negotiators to having a protectionist approach. We have seen several countries in Asia that, after opening up their markets, witnessed tremendous growth,” the official said.
A European Council official also expressed “optimism” about the trade pact discussions and said that the upcoming bilateral summit is expected to prepare the grounds for kicking off the FTA talks between India and the EU, which started in 2007. The 13th India-EU Summit, which happened at Brussels last year, had concluded without a consensus on the free trade deal known as the Broadbased Trade and Investment Agreement, even as progress was made in bilateral cooperation in other fields — ranging from foreign policy and counterterrorism to collaboration in outer space.