India-EU should expand trade, security ties: Experts


New Delhi : Recognising each other as important poles in the present multi-polar world, India and European Union (EU) should seek to expand their trade and security relations over the next five years that will help each other tide over economic, development and security challenges.

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This was the popular refrain at a two-day conference of India-EU Forum on Effective Multilateralism that ended Wednesday, where strategic affairs thinkers, diplomats and academicians highlighted the shared values of democracy, diversity and peace that make the two natural partners in global forum.

The conference was organised by the New Delhi-based Indian Council for World Affairs (ICWA) at Sapru House here in association with Paris-based European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS) and Warsaw-based Polish Institute of International Affairs (PIIA).

Setting the tone for the conference, Banashri Bose Harrison, a joint secretary in India’s ministry of external affairs, told the gathering that trade between India and EU stood at euros 70 billion and the two sides have set a target of 100 billion euros in the next five years.

“As of now, this target looks difficult. But businesses have come to be more comfortable with each other. I am optimistic,” Harrison said.

EU is, as of today, India’s largest trading partner, with India investing about $4 billion in 2008 alone in EU countries.

Harrison said India-EU relations had indeed undeniably progressed and diversified over the years.

“EU is one of the poles in this multi-polar world that India seeks. It is the largest economy in nominal GDP terms and the largest trade partner of India,” she said, calling for collaboration between the two to ensure inclusive growth and benefits for the common man.

Harrison also flagged terrorism as a major challenge, an issue on with most speakers at the conference concurred with.

ICWA director general Sudhir T. Devare, in his observations, noted that the south Asian region was important for EU for the simple reason that most of its countries had troops in Afghanistan. He said Afghanistan and Pakistan being highly unstable and a breeding ground for global terror groups, the region posed a concern for the entire world.

Referring to the piracy menace in the Indian Ocean region, Devare said the EU had more concern in the Gulf of Aden, where a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) naval task force is deployed to fight Somali pirates.

“But slowly, it is causing trouble for India too in the recent times, with the pirates increasingly operating closer to the Indian coast.”

He also noted that the trade and investment agreement between India and EU to be signed soon would provide a major boost to the relations, which turned into a strategic partnership in 2004.

EU Ambassador to India Daniele Smadja, in her address, noted that the trade agreement soon will be a building block in the multi-faceted relations that the two enjoyed in the recent years.

The common interests in matters of non-traditional security issues such as cyber security, global commons, climate change and environment, millennium development goals and the fight for basic resources such as potable water, food and energy too were debated at the meet.