The visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Brussels was brief but intense and the India-EU Summit meeting, on March 30, with Presidents Donald Tusk of the European Council and Jean-Claude Juncker of the European Commission, was enormously productive. The EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy/ VP of the Commission, Federica Mogherini, and the minister of commerce and industry, Nirmala Sitharaman, also attended the summit. Covering a wide array of subjects, and addressing the many challenges that the EU and India — as the two biggest democracies — face separately and together, our leaders have laid out an agenda for dialogue and cooperation over the next five years which has the potential to cement their strategic partnership and have a significant impact on some of the major issues of our time.
That PM Modi kept to his planned visit so soon after the terrorist attack in Brussels is a mark of solidarity with Europe and sympathy for the victims. Indians are among those who died and were injured. Understandably, counter-terrorism was on the summit agenda and the joint declaration includes action to prevent extremism and radicalisation, disrupt recruitment and financing, and for police and immigration authorities working closer together.
At the same time, there’s a new resolve to work together to reduce tensions in the geographical neighbourhood through dialogue and coordination, particularly in the context of Afghanistan, for which a ministerial conference in Brussels in October and the Heart of Asia Conference in New Delhi later this year will focus international efforts to bring peace and development.
The summit has endorsed a plan for joint cooperation in many areas under the title “EU-India Agenda for Action 2020”. The numerous initiatives launched or strengthened can be grouped into a few broad categories, such as economic cooperation, sustainable development, research and education.
Promoting flows of trade and investment has been the EU’s way of dissolving barriers within Europe but also the primary engine of growth thereafter. India is following the same path. A political impetus has, therefore, been given to negotiations for a Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement whilst work will intensify to promote EU investments as part of Make in India. The European Investment Bank, whose exposure in India is already in excess of €1 billion, announced at the summit that it will invest €450 million (Rs 3,375 crore) in the metro rail project for Lucknow, and open an office in Delhi to manage its growing portfolio.
Sustainable development has become a cornerstone for all our policies, following the adoption of the UN Sustainable Development Goals last year; and both India and the EU played a major role in the climate change agreement in Paris last December. Joint declarations signed at the summit focus our cooperation on issues such as water quality, with a focus on the rejuvenation of the Ganga, and on clean energy and climate to implement the Paris commitments. The EU welcomed renewable energy developments and the International Solar Alliance, and suggested holding an urban forum to bring expertise and investments to bear on the Smart Cities initiative. Pilot projects in these areas have already shown how innovative technologies in waste minimisation and management, transport, smart grids, clean coal and offshore wind have the potential not only to mitigate the climate and pollution impacts of India’s rapid urbanisation but also promote growth and jobs in a way that doesn’t jeopardise health.
Research, innovation, intellectual property protection and skill development form the third leg of the Agenda for Action 2020. The summit welcomed the fact that the EU-India Science and Technology Agreement has been renewed for another five years, and co-funding mechanisms for joint projects agreed. Cooperation in information and communication technologies is also growing, notably in the area of standardisation, and a joint declaration on 5G networks is likely later this year.
Meanwhile, Indian scientists are beneficiaries of the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Scholarships and of the highly prestigious European Research Council grants, several of whose recipients have in recent years gone on to win Nobel prizes. Masters-level Erasmus scholarships, highly popular in India, have supported the European sojourns of several thousand Indian students. New initiatives aimed at institutional partnerships will promote the development of course curricula and the mutual recognition of degrees.
The Common Agenda on Mobility and Migration paves the way for further work on enhanced mobility for businessmen, students and researchers, as well as cooperation on facilitation of the return of irregular migrants and a readmission agreement. This agenda will support better understanding of our peoples and greater integration of our economies.
Relations between the EU and India began in 1962. Since then, a lot of change has occurred and we live in a globalised world where close cooperation between like-minded partners is essential. The EU-India Summit in Brussels has given a new momentum to our relationship to infuse dynamism into the global economy and contribute to peace and stability in the world.