An Indo-EU partnership to counterbalance China’s belligerent moves and Beijing’s model of economic expansionism in the Indo-Pacific region will be among the key items on the agenda at the meeting between the Indian leadership and President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, here on Monday.
While von der Leyen will focus on threats to Europe from Russia in the backdrop of the Ukraine conflict, India will seek a wider commitment from the EU to make Indo-Pacific an inclusive region, ET has learnt. New Delhi is seeking EU’s wider footprint in the Indo-Pacific region.
On Sunday, von der Leyen made it clear that EU’s tense ties with Russia and its attempts to reduce energy dependency will be among her talking points on Monday. Addressing a meet on the International Solar Alliance here von der Leyen said “Russian war on Ukraine is a stark reminder to us Europeans to reduce dependency on Russian fossil fuels”.
India has divergences with the West on approaching the crisis and has repeatedly emphasised on dialogue and diplomacy to address the conflict. India neither condemned Russia’s “special military operations” in Ukraine nor did it support West-backed resolutions in the UN against Russia. The Modi government has also publicly differed with the US and Europe on being called out for its limited oil purchases from Russia while Europe continues to make volumes of energy imports from Moscow per day.
However, India and the EU have more in common over China’s aggression and the impact of the Belt and Road Initiative in Europe. Ever since the pandemic set in 2020, Europe has sought to balance China’s inroads into the continent with many countries adopting a cautious approach vis a vis Beijing. It is against this backdrop that the EU launched its Indo-Pacific strategy and sought to collaborate with India including in the connectivity sector and providing alternatives.
The fight against climate change and biodiversity loss, the energy and digital transition, connectivity, security and defence, cooperation in the Indo-Pacific will be at the centre of von der Leyen’s conversation in Delhi, an official told ET, adding that the visit will be an opportunity to give momentum to last year’s India-EU summit held virtually that focused on connectivity initiatives and Indo-Pacific region among other issues.
She started her Indian tour on Sunday with talks on energy issues and a visit to the Energy and Resources Institute in New Delhi, where she met young climate activists.
The India-EU broad economic agenda, with a focus on the Free Trade Agreement (FTA), Investment Protection agreement and Geographical Indications agreement will also be on the agenda. India and the EU hope to relaunch negotiations for FTA in the backdrop of India’s renewed focus on FTAs.
The visit coincides with the celebration of 60 years of relationship between India and the European Union. This will be von der Leyen’s first visit to India after taking over the European Commission office. von der Leyen will be the chief guest at this year’s inaugural session at India’s premier foreign policy dialogue –– Raisina Dialogue –– organised by the MEA and the Observer Research Foundation. Narendra Modi will also be present on the occasion. She will highlight the vast potential of the EU India strategic partnership and offer the EU perspective over the current geopolitical challenges.
In the last decade, EU-India trade in goods has increased by 41% and trade in services has increased by 76%. EU-India trade in goods and services in 2020 amounted to €96 billion. The EU is one of the largest investors in India accounting for 16% of total investments received between 2015-20 (Euro 83 billion in 2000-2021). There are 4,500 European companies operating in India, contributing to the creation of over 1.5 million direct and 5 million indirect jobs in the country. The leaders’ meeting held last year provided fresh impetus to the EU India relationship, including in trade and investment.