India-Europe relations have been sustained by a rich cohort of pluralistic and democratic values. The growing economic synergies of aspiring populations are promising to deliver one of the most enduring partnerships in the world.
A testimony to this was Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s participation in the first Nordic summit in April 2018. Mr. Modi held meetings with leaders of Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Iceland. French President Emmanuel Macron also made a significant visit to India in March 2018 and a policy document released by the European Union outlines the bloc’s roadmap to significantly scale up ties between the two sides in a range of areas like trade, investment, defence, security and military-to-military cooperation in the Indian Ocean. This significant policy declaration is set to take the relationship to the next level.
A steady and high growth rate–as projected by the World Bank and IMF and upward movement in the ranks of the World Bank’s ‘Ease of Doing Business Index’ is already making European businesses to look towards India. At the same time, Indian business is becoming a significant investor in Europe. The EU, with the inclusion of the UK, is one of India’s largest trading partners accounting for $53.62 billion (17.64 per cent share) of exports and $47.87 billion (10.28 per cent of share) in 2017-18. As long-standing partners, India and EU are working towards enhancing the EU-India Strategic Partnership, established in 2004 and the EU-India Summit-the 13th edition of which was held in Brussels in March, 2016-has emerged as a formidable platform for linking a continent and a subcontinent in a common quest for shared prosperity.
India is moving towards a knowledge-based society which aims to build a five trillion dollar economy by 2025. It augurs well for stronger economic cooperation between India and Europe in trade, science and technology, energy, environment and ICT, digital communications and emerging technologies. There are huge opportunities for collaboration between India and Europe in the development and widespread adoption of new ICT services and networks, promoting R&D and innovation, network security, spectrum management, enhanced capacity development as well as in supporting global standards and technical cooperation between India’s Telecom Standardization Development organizations and its European counterpart (ETSI). These can have powerful effects on economic and social development and in addressing global challenges.
Europe’s development cooperation with India spans several decades with a successful track record including in education, health, water and sanitation. India and EU are working on a more intense agenda of engagement in environment and climate change with the two partners identifying reinforced cooperation in the fields of clean energy, sustainable development and climate-related initiatives.
The first EU-India Competition Week held in New Delhi earlier this month, it outlines the scope for deepening the Strategic Partnership between the two sides in competition policy and law through sharing of good practices on case handling and enforcement on a wide range of topics, including mergers in the agro-chemical sector and relevant markets on online platforms.
There are however strong challenges to the roadmap of a more intense India-EU engagement including a much procrastinated free trade agreement (Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement – BTIA) that India and EU had launched in 2007. This aimed at facilitating increased trade in goods and services as well as investment. There has been little headway with uncertainties over ‘Brexit’ holding up a conclusive agreement and the EU could well be looking at reworking the BTIA in a post-Brexit scenario to achieve a “balanced, ambitious and mutually beneficial” agreement with sufficient levels of ambition to respond to each side’s key interests in trade and investment. The other issue is of data protection with the EU’s reservations over India’s move to localise data. India is conducting studies of the European privacy laws.
If these obstacles are ironed out, India’s dialogue with Europe can become the decisive conversation of the 21st century.
Script: Nivedita Mukherjee, Journalist