EU leaders hail relations with India


Brussels : The ninth European Union-India summit in Marseille, France, Monday to be attended by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will mark an important stage for the future of relations between the 27-member European bloc and India, said a statement by the European Commission on the eve of the meeting.

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“The EU and India are pillars of stability in their respective regions. In this respect, they have a major role to play on the international stage to promote peace and security. Also, challenges posed by climatic change and energy security or food crisis plead for this stronger commitment,” said European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in a statement.

On her part, EU Commissioner for external relations, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, said the EU and India have to join forces to confront worldwide challenges as for instance energy security, according to EuAsiaNews.

“Our bilateral collaboration in the field of research and in development and multiplication of university exchanges between European and Indian students is essential to answer these challenges,” she added.

EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson said the EU-India trade and investment agreement currently under negotiations would allow an advantageous rapprochement of the Indian and European commercial exchanges and consolidate more and more the dynamic trade relations which saw, in the course of last five years, the volume of exchanges doubling and investments multiplied by ten.

The EC statement was surprisingly issued only in French though the normal practice is to issue statements in two languages, French and English.

France currently holds the EU Presidency.

The Indian side led by Manmohan Singh will also include Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath and national security advisor M.K. Narayanan.

EU diplomatic sources told reporters in Brussels that the summit will focus on three main areas, global challenges, regional matters and bilateral issues, said the EuAsiaNews.

Global challenges include issues like energy, climate change, terrorism and the financial crisis, while regional matters will cover India-Pakistan ties, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Iran.

Bilateral issues will include topics like human rights and the situation of religious minorities in India.

The sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the EU will raise the issue of violent attacks on Christians in Orissa and other Indian states.

Manmohan Singh is expected to seek EU support for a permanent Security Council seat for India. However, the EU has no common position on this matter, noted the EU sources.

The EU is also very carefully looking at the India-US nuclear deal for possible cooperation with India on nuclear energy.

Meanwhile, journalists in Brussels are pointing out that information on the EU-India summit is coming only from one side, the EU which arranged briefings for journalists here.

There was no briefing for Brussels-based journalists or any statement by the Indian mission in Brussels leaving journalists ignorant of the Indian position on the summit.