New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi Wednesday raised the issue of the ongoing border standoff with China at the India-European Union (EU) Summit even as both sides lauded each other for sharing common universal values of “democracy, pluralism, inclusivity, respect for international institutions, multilateralism, freedom, transparency”.
The 15th India-EU Summit took place for the first time on the virtual platform. It was held between PM Modi and Charles Michel, President, European Council (which defines the EU’s overall political direction and priorities) and Ursula Von der Leyen, President, European Commission (EU’s executive branch).
PM Modi said India and the 27-nation bloc are “natural partners” even as both should “adopt a long-term strategic perspective”.
“Along with this, an action-oriented agenda should be implemented, which can be implemented within the stipulated time frame,” Modi said in his opening remarks during the summit.
The summit comes at a time when India and China are engaged in a bitter border dispute since early May at the Ladakh sector of the Line of Actual Control (LAC), which also witnessed a violent face-off at the Galwan River Valley on 15 June.
“We discussed this topic (India-China border standoff)… Prime Minister Modi also informed us about the latest developments regarding this incident with China and we support all the efforts in order to maintain a channel of dialogue, in order to find a peaceful solution,” President Michel said during an online press briefing from Brussels.
According to Von der Leyen, while the EU shares “important” relationships with both India as well as with China, but with New Delhi, Brussels shares “democracies and values”, while relationship with China is “complex”.
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She said the EU has “strong” trading relationships with both India and China, and both are “very important” for Brussels in the fight against climate change.
“The difference is indeed with India, that is we are democracies… We share democracies and our values,” she added.
Discussions on Pakistan also held
According to Vikas Swarup, secretary (West) in the Ministry of External Affairs, both sides are intensifying maritime cooperation and security issues.
“Relations with China did come up and the current situation was discussed by Prime Minister Modi,” Swarup said at a press conference after the summit.
He added there were also discussions on Pakistan and also on the reservations the EU has in terms of human rights concerns that it had raised before with regard to Kashmir and the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
Both sides also launched a ‘India-EU Strategic Partnership: A Roadmap to 2025’, which is a common roadmap to guide joint action and further strengthen the India-EU Strategic Partnership over the next five years, with a priority on foreign policy and security issues.
High-level trade & investment dialogue launched
With no headway made on the issue of stalled negotiations for a free trade agreement, the talk for which began in 2007, both sides launched a high-level trade and investment dialogue.
India and the EU held their last round of formal negotiations on the FTA, officially called broad-based Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA), in 2013. Since then, although both sides have discussed the matter at a technical level, they continue to remain “far apart” on the differences.
“Of the broad-based trade and investment agreement, the leaders recognised that economic recovery priorities offer opportunities to unleash the full potential for their economic ties, including discussion on supply chain linkages between India and Europe,” said Swarup.
The PM also invited European companies for investing in India taking into account “our efforts to improve ease of doing business regulatory environment in our aim to integrate India with global value supply chains,” according to Swarup.
While the EU believes some of the programmes rolled out by India such as ‘Make in India’ and ‘Atma Nirbhar Bharat’ have given rise to protectionist tendencies, New Delhi sought to quell that stating that a self-reliant India will make itself more integrated in global value chains, said Swarup.
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