'India and the EU are now in a 'mature' state of strategic relations'

'India and the EU are now in a 'mature' state of strategic relations'

What is the thrust of Indo-EU relations?

The Indian and the European Union relationship can best be understood through a three dimensional approach — regional, bilateral and multilateral. Both India and EU want to first focus on regional stability in their respective areas and build more economic ties, to
be able to provide better framework to develop trade and commerce at bilateral level.

Major areas of cooperation between India and the European Union?

The main focus is on facilitating the ambitious Free Trade Agreement (FTA) which will benefit both sides. Another is exploring new avenues of cooperation on the security front. FTA is highly important and perhaps more ambitious agreement than ASEAN or other agreements. It is more complicated as well  and requires more time to work on it but both sides hope to finalise it by the year end.

No country is spared of the threat of terrorism, organised crime or proliferation of arms. We all know after the Mumbai terrorist attack, security is India’s obvious high agenda and India can have lot of intelligence sharing with the EU. Home minister P Chidambaram has already seen the UK and other European models before setting up a new Inter-Agency for India.

Third is how to stimulate more energy projects. The political leadership of India and the EU vow to convey message of diversity and do not want to limit the area of cooperation to a single sector.

How the EU is going to support India in the field of energy, particularly nuclear energy?

The EU support in nuclear energy is not supply related like the Indo-US or Indo-France agreements but it is primarily for the safety of nuclear installations and research in the field. India and EU, both soft powers and global  players can also play an effective role in issues related to climate change, green technology, agriculture and civil aviation.

How do you see prospects of trade between EU and India after the FTA?

The prospects are really promising as FTA will boost both old and new sectors besides facilitating mobility of business professionals. It will significantly enhance trade and investment in traditional as well as new strength markets in consumer goods, technology and services, especially in IT enabled services.

Has the EU has decided to reinstate Rs 450 crore (nearly 80 million Euro) assistance to Rajasthan for water projects?

When the EU delegation visited the state last year, there was no requisite progress for the State Partnership Programme (SPP). But now the present government has come up with the new water policy and has begun to show commitment. Hence, the decision to reinstate the assistance.

How is EU supporting school education in India and offering direct support to NGOs?

The EU has been supporting Government of India’s education improvement programmes for over a decade through the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, assistance for District Primary Education Programme, State Partnership Programme and Civil Society Action. The EU is funding projects for both primary education and health sectors in states like Chattisgarh and Rajasthan to help vulnerable groups and maginalised children. There are a lot of projects to support NGOs working at grassroots level to provide vocational training to local men and women.

The EU is also helping India fight HIV/AIDS?

Since the inception of the Global Fund against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the European Union has a strong commitment to tackle the pandemic. In India, out of a total amount of nearly 414 million Euro for all HIV related Global Fund Grants, more than half is provided by the EU.

So one can say India-EU FTA will further strengthen the dynamic relations between both sides?

Yes, of course. India and the EU are now in a ‘mature’ state of strategic relations. Both sides have built maturity, respect, trust and more understanding though developing dialogue and collaboration over the years. Both are sharing concerns on security, working on nuclear energy, trade and commerce. With the ambitious FTA, the economic ties will surely touch greater heights.