Daily Editorial Analysis for 21st January 2020

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India-EU relations in the multilateral dimension 

Paper: II

For Prelims:

For Mains: Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

Context of News:

  • 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.

Background Of India-EU Relation:

  • India- EU relations go back to the early 1960s. India was among the first countries to establish diplomatic relations with the (then) EEC. The 1994 cooperation agreement signed between EU and India took bilateral relations beyond merely trade and economic cooperation.
  • Together with the Joint Political Statement signed in 1993 it opened the way for annual ministerial meetings and a broad political dialogue. The first India-EU Summit in Lisbon in June 2000 marked a watershed in the evolution of this relationship.
  • India-EU relations have grown exponentially from what used to be a purely trade and economic driven relationship to one covering all areas of interaction. The Summit in The Hague was a landmark Summit, as it endorsed the proposal to upgrade the India-EU relationship to the level of a ‘Strategic Partnership.

Shared objective of India-EU:

  • Promoting peace and comprehensive security:
  • India and EU many times in Joint Declaration states that those who sponsor, abet and instigate terrorism and provide terrorists’ safe havens; underline that cooperation in combating international terrorism, including cross-border terrorism, is one of the key political priorities in the India-EU strategic partnership’ (the reference to Pakistan is obvious).
  • The fight against piracy in the Indian Ocean offers great scope for convergence between India and the EU. In this field the EU has set up, under its own label, its first naval operation, Atlanta off coast of Somalia few years back.
  • Promoting sustainable development:
  • India and EU share a common objective in field towards sustainable growth. The EU-India Action Plan Support Facility Programme (APSF) provides technical assistance in five priority sectors: waste, water, climate change, air pollution and chemicals. The Work Programme on Energy, Clean Development and Climate Change, adopted in 2008, supports operations dealing with energy efficiency, renewable energy, transfer of technology and water management. Sustainable habitat and climate change adaptation are also addressed.
  • EU-India cooperation on the environment aims at building ‘understanding on global environment issues including climate change as the priority area.
  • Parliamentary Exchanges:
  • As the two largest democracies in the world, the importance of regular Parliamentary interactions between India and the EU can hardly be over-emphasised. They are essential to enhance understanding of each other’s points of view on matters of interest to both sides. They also encourage greater understanding of each other’s democratic systems and areas of responsibility.
  1. Work towards the further development of EU-India friendship groups in the Indian Parliament and the European Parliament;
  2. Organise regular exchanges of visits by Parliamentary delegations, including by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha to the European Parliament and the President of the European Parliament to the Indian Parliament.
  3. Encourage greater interaction between subject-specific Parliamentary Committees on both sides.
  • Promoting people-to-people and cultural exchanges:
  • Preservation of cultural heritage is a promising sector and promoting cultural links is a priority for the strategic EU-India partnership.
  • While building our partnership with different sectors, cultural heritage preservation is one of the most promising sectors. That’s why we decided to bring experts from both sides and discuss it sector by sector. We don’t have a roadmap as such, but we have good intentions, we have a fora for discussion.

Way Forward:

  • Enhancing India-EU cooperation in critical areas of non-traditional security issues is an obvious necessity. There is already a sound basis for expanding existing cooperation. What is lacking perhaps is a comprehensive framework under the existing agenda, to promote bilateral debate not just about the various issues already identified, but also about the correlations between them and others fields that are crucial to the Strategic Partnership.
  • Rising India’s global vision of a democratic, multicultural and multipolar world coincides with that of Europe. Similarly, while a new economic and security architecture is evolving in Asia, Europe’s engagement with it will be incomplete unless it partners India.
  • India is itself becoming an increasingly active player in an evolving development policy: it is both a recipient and donor, a user of developmental innovations and an exporter of new concepts. This commitment should be further enhanced. With a view to provide impetus to India-EU cooperation it is proposed to deepen development cooperation in Health and Education sectors, under which the EU – working together with the Government of India – will aim to significantly enhance development cooperation to supplement Indian programmes.
  • 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.
  • Today 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.

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