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India & the World - SEMINAR REPORT

#224, 15 May 2007

India-EU Relations

Amb Lalit Mansingh, Former Foreign Secretary, Government of India

Mr Jorg Wolff, Resident Representative, KAF-India
Prof Gunter Rinsche, Member of Board of Directors, KAF
H.E. Francisco da Camara Santa Clara Gomes, Head of Delegation of EC in India
H.E. Bernd Mutzelburg, Ambassador of Germany in India
Mr Nalin Surie, Secretary (West), Ministry of External Affairs
Amb Satinder K Lambah, President, FIGS

The Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAF) in collaboration with the Federation of Indo-German Societies in India (FIGS) and the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS), organized a roundtable to discuss the different contours of India-EU relations. It was also an occasion for the release of the second updated edition of the book "India and the European Union," edited by Gerhard Whalers. The release of the book commemorated fifty years of the establishment of the European Economic Community and marked the German presidency. On this occasion, Jorg Wolff noted that "India is growing at a massive rate and the story of its economic success is well known. India has a great sense of responsibility and the EU believes that India is and will be a valuable partner in the future. However, there is room for further improvement and more space for excellent collaboration." Today, both India and the EU play an important role in international politics. However, it would be instructive to say that the EU and India have not realized the full potential of their relationship. Even though the EU is the largest trading block in the world, India-EU trade is quite low.

Globalization and India-EU Relations

In this era of globalization, the only way states can safeguard their interests is by cooperating with like-minded partners. Gunter Rinsche believed that the main objective of democratic politics is to provide security to the people. The people also hope for prosperity, for which the prerequisites are socio-economic growth, social responsibility and efficiency. Rinsche felt that globalization, a buzzword in public debate, is a much feared phenomenon. Even in Europe, people are afraid that their social status might be undermined by competitors from beyond their borders. They demand global minimum standards for environmental protection, human rights, and minimum wages for employees to keep a check on cheap imports from the developing countries. The developing countries in turn are concerned about the domination of big international players, unpredictability of international financial transactions and the consequences for their own economic and social situation. However, there is a need to accept the realities of globalization and recognize its opportunities and requirements. The problems resulting from globalization can be effectively dealt with an efficient system of international cooperation and multilateralism.

Placing EU-India relations in the context of globalization, Rinsche said that India and EU should reinforce their strategic alliance for the promotion of an effective multilateral approach, peace, security, human rights and democracy in the world. Efforts should be made to promote intellectual and cultural ties through the development of parliamentary and academic exchanges as well as cultural projects. These would require India and the EU to streamline their institutional architecture. Globalization requires political management and strong international cooperation.

Contours of India-EU Relations

Ambassador Francisco Gomes stated that relations between India and the EU were dynamic and multi-dimensional and that it was important for both to collaborate on issues of science and technology, environment, climate change and others. He pointed at the sharp increase in visits by government officials between both the partners. For example, leading companies from the aviation industries from Europe and India came together during the meet on civil aviation in India. The Ministers of Science from the EU member countries also came to New Delhi to meet members of the Indian scientific community. This was the first time that the Ministers of Science were meeting outside the Union. The EU is not "distributing strategic partnerships to everyone. India is one of the very few countries with whom the EU has a special strategic partnership, the others being the United States, Russia, Japan and China".

Both the EU and India are multilingual, multiethnic, multi-religious and multicultural societies and believe in the common values of peace, democracy, tolerance, non-discrimination freedom of speech and respect for human rights. Therefore, it is important to encourage more people-to-people contacts with the civil societies which are vibrant in both cases. The EU made its first appearance as an observer at the SAARC summit in April 2007 in New Delhi. The EU sees itself as a natural partner in all the efforts of regional integration and looks with particular attention to SAARC that is trying to emulate EU in South Asia.

Future of India-EU Relations

Talking about the potential of India-EU relations, Ambassador Gomes felt that the trade agreement between India and EU should be comprehensive and cover all areas of trade in goods and services ranging from investment to intellectual property rights. This is important to prevent the real economic benefits from being too small. The EU-India relations have to tackle the economic and investment matters as well as the political content of the relationship. However, this bilateral initiative of the trade agreement is not something that should be opposed to multilateral negotiations as both India and the EU believe that a multilateral system is necessary and important to achieve common objectives.

Ambassador Bernd Mutzelburg felt that in order for the India-EU relations to be strategic, it should have a global and not just a bilateral dimension. India and the EU are partners by choice and partners of complementarity. However, to be able to be a key pole, the EU should be able to speak in one voice and act accordingly. The EU is committed to shaping the world according to beliefs in the principles of self-determination, democracy, the rule of law, the respect for diversity, tolerance, the need for solidarity, fairness and equality in our international system within the EU, in its relationship to India as well as within the global system. If India and the EU want to be global players, they would be required to exhibit the political will to take on international responsibility. This is amply reflected in the UN peacekeeping missions where both have come together to work for common beliefs and the objective of reshaping the international system both in the political and economic realm.

India and the EU do not need to reinvent policies and should work towards strengthening the existing ones. The visibility of the EU in India has to be increased and this would require efforts from both sides. India can interact with the EU member states as well as EU as a whole. It need not choose one over the other as both the relationships can be pursued simultaneously. However, the EU has to decide about the future of its existence. Merely having a Joint Action Plan is not enough to sustain the India-EU relations. There is a need to move beyond that to further develop their roles as partners in shaping globalization. They also need to redefine their relationship in the context of the present global system, in particular vis-à-vis the United States, which is the last remaining superpower. Further, the EU has to decide on what it wants to be in the future. In this regard, questions about a European identity and a common European mission are important especially in the context of the dialogue between Islamic and Western societies. On the other hand, India has to chart out its future too.

Strengthening Partnership

Nalin Surie stated that India attached importance to its strategic partnership with the EU. Both the partners share common values, pluralism, respect for diversity and governance. The common federal and conciliatory decision making structures strengthen the relationship. The role of courageous European leaders in stressing on unity in a democracy was also appreciated. India welcomes its evolving partnership with the growing and more prosperous EU. For India, this relationship is important to fight global issues like terrorism. As strategic partners, India and EU have joined hands to condemn terrorism and stressed on solidarity and international cooperation. Trade and economic relationship provide the underpinning to the relationship even after EU evolved its political personality. Both partners are keen to extend cooperation beyond the Action Plan, in science and technology, climate change, energy, aviation and dialogue in civil society. India and EU represent old civilizations determined to collaborate in the contemporary context, and determined also to strengthen the long standing dialogue between their cultures and civilizations.

Increasing Visibility of the EU

Ambassador Satinder Lambah opined that, "India has a strategic partnership both with EU and Germany." Emphasis was laid on the need for greater visibility for India in Europe and vice versa. In this context, four suggestions were made. First, both partners should exploit economic opportunities to benefit their economies and populations. Second, since both partners give importance to freedom and civil liberties, cooperation on the same should be enhanced. Third, demography was also a common national security concern. Europe in the next few years will have a population a million smaller whereas India in the next fifteen years will add a 400 million-strong work force. Finally, the EU has pledged to help India to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Cooperation in food security, energy security, water management and environment would strengthen India-EU relations. Seventy percent of the Indian population is dependent on agriculture and this reinforces the need to achieve common objectives of removing subsidies in a phased manner.


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