Current Affairs European Union-India Relations

European Union-India Relations

The European Union recently released its Strategy on India after 14 years.

European Union Strategy for India:
• The strategy paper, released by EU, reflects that India is on the top of the agenda of the EU in the field of external relations.

• Major Focus Areas:

  •  There is an urgent need to conclude a broader Strategic Partnership Agreement,
  •  Intensifying dialogue on Afghanistan and Central Asia,
  •  Strengthening technical cooperation on fighting terrorism and countering radicalisation, violent extremism and terrorist financing.

India European Union Bilateral Relationship
2004 European Union-India declaration: European Union-India strategic partnership was the result of this declaration signed in 2004.
• India is one among 10 select countries with whom EU has strategic partnership.

European Union:
• EU, a single market as well as Customs Union, is a supranational institution of 28 member countries including United Kingdom having four types of freedom of movements – goods, services, people and capital.
Maastricht Treaty: It forms the constitutional basis of EU. It was signed in 1993.
Lisbon Treaty: Signed in 2007, it amends existing treaties such as Maastricht treaty. Article 50 of Lisbon Treaty introduces a procedure for a member state to withdraw
voluntarily from the EU.

Significance of India for EU:
India emerging as a pivot in Indo-Pacific Region: With the emergence of Indo-Pacific region as the world’s most contested geo-strategic, geo-economic and geo-political region and India being at its centre, EU wants greatest convergence of interest with India.
India remains a bright spot in glooming global economy: India could turn into a global growth engine, supporting job creation and investment objective.

Bilateral trade: India’s bilateral trade with EU in 2017 (Jan-Oct 2017) stood at $79.89 billion with India having a trade surplus of $4.41 billion.

Counter Terror Cooperation: In November 2018, 11th India-European Union Counter Terrorism Dialogue was held where both sides condemned terrorism in all its forms and discussed ways to deepen institutional linkages.

Common Democratic Goals: Both India and EU want to promote democratic principles of democracy, equality, and human rights. With India being a vibrant and promising democracy in South Asia, EU pins a very high hope on India.
Connectivity and Security Cooperation: India is an important partner in implementing the EU’s strategy on connecting Europe and Asia and its security policy engagement in the region.

Significance of EU for India:
Economic: EU remains India’s largest trading partner.
Market Access: The potential of EU market in various sectors such as services and generic pharma sector could be tapped where India has competitive edge over other nations.
EBRD Membership: It will provide developmental funding along with enhancing the competitive strength of the Indian firms and provide an enhanced access to international markets.

  • The Lucknow and Bengaluru metro projects and many solar ventures are supported by the European Bank.
  • In March 2018, India became 69th member of European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

UNSC Reforms: Some of the major EU powers such as France and Germany support India’s cause for permanent seat in UN Security Council along with reforming this global institution.
Defence and Security Cooperation: India can learn from EU Security Strategy Planning to formulate its own National Security Strategy which has become the need of an hour.
Maintaining the Global Order: With the ongoing hegemonic struggle between USA, China and Russia, India and EU collaboration can help in ensuring a multilateral world order.

Bilateral Cooperation between India and EU:
Space Cooperation: Under Copernicus programme, both India and European Commission will share the data and information from their respective satellites.

  • It will be used for forecasting disasters and for issues of security, agriculture, climate change etc.
  • Copernicus is the EU’s Earth Observation Programme which uses Sentinel family of satellites

• Health Sector Cooperation: Under HORIZON 2020 programme, both are developing next generation influenza vaccine.

Clean Energy: The European Union-India Clean Energy and Climate Partnership will contribute to reducing global resource pressure and greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Further, both India and EU are working together under Mission Innovation to double Clean Energy Research and Development investments over five years.
  • Mission Innovation: It is a global initiative of 22 countries and the European Union to dramatically accelerate global clean energy innovation.

Challenges in India and EU Relationship:
Bilateral Trade and non-finalization of Free Trade Agreement: EU constitutes India’s largest trading partner, whereas India remains the 9th largest trading partner of EU.

  • Broad based Bilateral Trade and Investment (BTIA) Agreement: BTIA agreement has not been finalized yet.
  • Since 2007, when the India-EU BTIA negotiations started, 16 rounds of negotiations have been held at the level of Chief Negotiators till 2016.

India as Data Secure country: India has not been granted “data secure” status by EU. According to them, the data protection regime in India is foolproof.
Human Rights violation: EU questions India’s human rights considerations in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Labour Laws and Climate Change: EU calls for stringent labour laws and wants India to limit the operation of its coal-fired power plant, which remains the major source of power in India.
• Earlier, Intelligence Bureau Report on “Impact of NGOs on Development” mentions that some of the European NGOs are involved in creating obstacles in India’s developmental agenda.
Divergent Approach towards Security Framework: EU has formalised an elaborate Common Foreign and Security Policy, a European Security and Defence Policy, and even a European Security Strategy while India has not formally articulated a national security strategy. This stymies efforts for joint collaboration or operations.
Non-Tariff Barriers as preventive measure for market access: EU often use sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures to bar many Indian agricultural products from entering its markets as was seen in the case of Alphonso Mangoes.
Technology Transfer: Many nations such as USA, Russia and Israel cooperate with India for dual use Strategic technology transfer whereas EU remains reluctant to share it.

Way Ahead:
Conclude BTIA agreement: Both India and EU must conclude BTIA negotiations successfully as soon as possible to mitigate the adverse impact of global economic slowdown.

Cease the Great Opportunity: As the EU shifts its focus to India, New Delhi should heartily reciprocate this outreach. India needs resources and expertise from the EU for its various priority areas, such as cybersecurity, urbanisation, environmental regeneration, and skill development.
Security Framework: India should learn about the ways EU security framework has been designed to evolve its own National Security Strategy when India is navigating on its growth path in the troubled waters of Indo-Pacific.