Our world is so closely interconnected that a rules-based global order based on partnerships and multilateralism is the only way to ensure stability and prosperity for our citizens. The decisions of one country can have a global impact. Regional events can trigger incidents in a different part of the world. Think of climate change, migration or trade. This is why cooperation between India and the European Union is more important than ever before.
The EU-India Strategic Partnership has come a long way in recent years. Our relationship is based on long-standing shared values and interests. We are the world’s largest democracies and are both staunch supporters of a rules-based international order with the United Nations at its core. We closely work together to promote peace, prosperity and enhance sustainable development.
Today, however, we are experiencing a rise of great power politics, the weaponisation of economic tools and an overall erosion of trust between international partners. This is not the world that the EU and India seek. That requires us to join forces in defence of our interests and values. Only by acting together will we be able to prevent a logic of power politics taking precedence over a global multilateral, rules-based system. We must have the ambition and determination to scale up our partnership. There are numerous opportunities to unleash the full potential of EU-India cooperation.
Take the climate crisis. The icecaps are melting and Australia is burning. We literally have no time to lose. The EU has committed to become carbon neutral by 2050. But EU member states together only account for 9 per cent of global emissions. We cannot solve this problem unless we engage with the rest of the world to address it. India’s commitment, as one of the biggest democracies in the world, is a key part of the solution. The mixed outcome of the COP25 Climate Conference shows how much more remains to be done.
Work between the EU and India has started: In 2016 Prime Minister Narendra Modi and European leaders agreed on an EU-India Clean Energy and Climate Partnership (CECP). In 2018, the EU joined efforts with the International Solar Alliance, headquartered in India. Let’s build on this to ensure the full implementation of the Paris Agreement worldwide and together promote the use of renewable energy.
Then there is trade. We both agree on the vital role of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the need to overcome the crisis of the dispute settlement system. The launch of a regular ministerial dialogue on economic, trade and investment issues could give additional impetus to our relations.
The EU has a strong record on liberalising trade. We have concluded ambitious free trade agreements with countries such as Japan, Singapore and Vietnam. We remain interested in balanced, ambitious and mutually-beneficial trade and investment agreements with India. This requires further efforts to bring our respective levels of ambition closer.
In the field of security, our cooperation is increasing, to bring further stability to regions of common interest for the EU and India, notably the Indian Ocean. Indian Navy vessels are now escorting World Food Programme ships in the framework of the EU Atalanta operation against piracy off the coast of Somalia. More such activities can be organised.
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India and the EU are both highly exposed to the terrorist threat. We have already brought together counter-terrorism experts from Europe and India to exchange experiences and best practices. As a result, an enhanced working relationship between our police officers is taking shape.
Finally, there is the field of digital economy and cyber: EU and India should deepen cooperation to protect fundamental freedoms in cyber space and the free flow of data — and counter the drift towards high-tech “de-coupling”. We do not want a split in cyber space, forcing us to “choose sides” between competing systems and standards. We both believe in fair competition, based on global standards, for 5G, AI, big data and the internet of things.
In short, there is much that the EU and India have accomplished in recent years. But there is even more to be done to further strengthen our dynamic dialogue and cooperation in all areas of mutual interest and as players on the world stage.
This article first appeared in the print edition on January 21, 2020 under the title “Acting In Concert”. The writer is high representative of the European Union for foreign affairs and security policy and vice-president of the European Commission.
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