Context

  • The 14th European Union (EU) -India summit completed in New Delhi has given insight about a much clearer political strategic direction.
  • EU Ambassador to India Tomasz Kozlowski also diminished comments by the German Ambassador that it was a failure that EU and India leaders didn’t agree on the resumption of the Free Trade Agreement talks.

Introduction:

  • The EU was represented by Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, and by Jean Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission. While the India was represented by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
  • The summit marked the 55th anniversary since the establishment of EU-India diplomatic relations. The leaders reviewed the wide-ranging cooperation under the India-EU Strategic Partnership.

Talk of partnership

  • The partnership between E.U and India is based on principles of democracy, human rights, tolerance and internal diversity, further translating these principles into clearly identified common interests.
  • Both India and EU agreed to deepen both strategic relations and to go ahead with these common goals with a long-term view on global and regional challenges, and a rule-based international order.
  • The shared responsibilities to secure peace and stability because of the current uncertainties in the global arena was discussed.

India – EU Foreign Trade Agreement (FTA) deadlock

  • EU was quite upbeat on pushing the talks, which had started in 2007, and finalize a date for a formal round of negotiations to take place. However,India was not keen to do so unless both sides resume the talks afresh.
  • The Conclusion of the FTA was the top most agenda of the European leaders, but India was more eager to discuss issues related to counter-terrorism and security.

What was discussed under FTA?

  • The issue of data adequacy and greater market access was discussed at length during the summit-level.
  • TheBilateral Trade and Investment Agreement(BTIA) was almost mentioned as a passing reference in the India-EU joint statement, which stated that both sides agreed to “re-engage actively towards timely relaunching negotiations for a comprehensive and mutually beneficial India-EU BTIA.”
  • The BTIA talks have been stuck mainly because over slashing of import tariffs on European cars and alcohol and recognizingIndia as ‘data-secure’ country that will enable a free flow of data between India and EU.
  • EU highlighted that two-way trade that has reached $95 billion in 2016 can be further boosted by having the FTA.

Trade concerns:

  • India has allowed tens of bilateral investment treaties to lapse, including those with EU states, so it can bring these in line with a model treaty from 2015.
  • Another issue holding up the trade talks has been the EU not granting “data secure” certification to India. India does not have a stand-alone data privacy law yet and the state recently went to great lengths to create a false dichotomy between development and privacy during the right to privacy hearings in the Supreme Court, including, by (unsuccessfully) arguing that privacy was an elitist concern.

What is India demanding?

  • Other sticky points in the negotiations have been India wanting a greater ease of movement of temporary skilled workers to provide services in the EU.
  • This EU and other developed nations have been historically reluctant about moving forward on this issue and this has become more challenging with the rise of populism and protectionism in Europe.

What is EU’s stand on it?

  • The EU wanting greater market access for its automobiles and its wines and spirits.
  • The EU is, commendably, at the forefront of protecting citizens’ rights as regards what happens to their data online.
  • It would certainly be a shot in the arm for consumer rights and privacy standards in the digital age if India were to adopt and implement strict standards for handling data, an outcome desirable in itself.

U.S’s shifting position:

  • The inauguration of Donald Trump as U.S. President and consequent retreat of America from its leadership role in the West has provided a significant external stimulus to the EU’s identity shift.
  • Trump has said he is going to “decertify” the nuclear deal with Iran — a deal that the EU is keen to uphold — and his administration has given notice of intent to withdraw from the Paris Accord.

Positive outcomes of the summit:

  • India and EU reaffirmed their commitment to a “rules-based” international order and a “multipolar” world.This is significant because U.S. moving towards reneging on several international deals.
  • Two sides have agreed to enhance cooperation at multilateral and bilateral interactions.
  • Under the FTA, the issue of data adequacy and greater market access was discussed at length.
  • The leaders committed to further work in a result-oriented and mutually beneficial manner to further strengthen the India-EU Strategic Partnership by deepening their trade cooperation, enhancing investment flows in both directions.
  • Broadening dialogue and engagement on global and regional issues, including climate change, as well as migration and the refugee crisis.
  • The leaders commended the strong engagement of the European Investment Bank in India in a wide range of key sectors, in particular in the field of climate action and renewable energy.

Foreign Policy and Security Cooperation:

  • The leaders reaffirmed their commitment to an open, free, secure, stable, peaceful and accessible cyberspace, enabling economic growth and innovation.
  • They agreed that India and the EU, as the world’s largest democracies, need to support a rules-based international order that upholds agreed international norms, global peace, and stability, and encourages inclusive growth and sustainable development in all parts of the inter-connected and multipolar world.
  • The leaders strongly condemned the recent terrorist attacks in many parts of the world, underlining their common concern about the global threat posed by terrorism and extremism.
  • The two sides reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening global non-proliferation efforts as highlighted at the India-EU Non-proliferation and Disarmament Dialogue in New Delhi on 18 July 2017.
  • India and the EU reaffirmed their commitment towards enhancing maritime security cooperation in the Indian Ocean and beyond. Both sides noted the recent joint maneuvers (PASSEX) between the EU Naval Force and the Indian Navy off the coast of Somalia, as a successful example of naval cooperation
  • Both sides agreed to enhance the India-EU space cooperation, including Earth observation.
  • India and the EU reiterated the importance they attach to human rights cooperation, including on gender equality and women empowerment in all spheres of life.
  • India and the EU reaffirmed their support for the continued full implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) regarding the Iranian nuclear issue.
  • Regarding the situation in Syria, India and the EU reaffirmed the primacy of the UN-led Geneva process and called for full support for the intra-Syrian talks with a view to promoting a political solution in Syria
  • Both sides underlined the importance of ASEM as an informal platform for connecting Asia and Europe. Both sides also agreed to give a new push to ASEM in the run-up to the next ASEM Summit to be hosted in Brussels, where the focus would be on tackling global challenges together.

Terrorism, Rohingya discussed:

  • Adopting a Joint Statement on Cooperation in Combating Terrorism, both sides agreed to take decisive and determined actions against globally banned terrorists and terror entities, including Hafeez Saeed, Zaki-ur-RehmanLakhvi, Dawood Ibrahim, Lashkar-e-Tayibba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, Haqqani Network, Al Qaeda, ISIS (Da’esh) and their affiliates.
  • India and EU also discussed the Rohingya crisis and urged Myanmar to implement the Kofi Annan-led Rakhine Advisory Commission’s recommendations and work with Bangladesh to enable the return of the displaced persons from all communities to Northern Rakhine State.
  • Both India – EU has agreed to consult each other about the listing of terrorists and designating organizations.
  • Both are working on establishing direct links between Europol and Indian agencies, meaning that the security cooperation is becoming more practical, and more operational.

Way ahead

  • India and the EU should continue to welcome each other’s leadership roles in the world, because of commonly shared values.
  • EU is India’s largest trade partner and it is also, like India, wary of China’s political (the summit declaration makes a reference to freedom of navigation principles) and economic dominance.
  • EU is concerned about China flooding global markets with inexpensive steel and its response to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (OBOR) has been lukewarm, but the strength of China’s relationship with EU member states themselves is heterogeneous, with China trying to make inroads into Eastern and Central Europe through infrastructure investments.
  • With around €100 billion in bilateral goods and services trade last year, India and the EU have a lot to gain from a trade deal.
  • It will certainly pay for both India and the EU to keep each other close as they feel their way around the emerging international order.
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