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The European Union on Wednesday unveiled a policy document, outlining the broad contours of significantly scaling up ties with India in areas like trade, investment, infrastructure, defence, security and counter-terrorism.
The strategy paper, which replaces a similar document issued in 2004, said the EU has an “interest” in strengthening its political, economic and defence cooperation with India as a strong partnership with New Delhi was key for a balanced policy towards Asia as a whole.
Releasing the document, the European Union’s Ambassador to India Tomasz Kozlowski said it laid the foundation to take the relationship to the next level, besides seeking to work together for a rules-based international order as well as to jointly deal with pressing regional and global challenges.
"The strategy illustrates a very important fact that India is on the top of our agenda in the field of external relations. We think that we are ready for a joint leap now" - Tomasz Kozlowski, EU’s Ambassador to India
On the long-pending India-EU free trade agreement, Kozlowski said they are committed to negotiating a comprehensive, balanced and economically meaningful agreement on trade and investment. He added that both sides are already engaged on it.
When asked about the contentious issue of data protection, Kozlowski said it is a very sensitive matter for the EU and that three delegations from Europe have apprised the Indian government as well as industries about the EU’s new data protection regulation.
“We are happy that India is working on its privacy laws. We are impressed by the Supreme Court's ruling recognising privacy as a fundamental right. India is now working on privacy law. The EU will provide our contribution to public consultation on it,” Kozlowski said.
The EU is known to have some reservations over India’s move to localise data. The envoy said the EU was ready to explore “all options” for starting negotiations with India on data protection and related issues.
On maritime cooperation with India, he said, “we are proposing to the Indian side to establish military-to military cooperation.”
"The scope for cooperation, especially in the Indian Ocean, is very large. The EU and India have cooperated in anti-piracy efforts in the Indian Ocean and the EU would like to see India joining on efforts to escort World Food Programme shipments off the coast of Somalia" - Tomasz Kozlowski, EU’s Ambassador to India
He said the EU and India should join forces to promote the United Nation’s Convention on the Law of the Sea, as the basis of ocean governance and work more closely in the field of maritime surveillance. “The EU aims to enhance overall cooperation with Asian partners, and with India in particular. To this end, the EU will seek to establish military-to-military contacts with Indian counterparts in order to explore concrete opportunities for cooperation.”
Kozlowski, however, made it clear that it was not going to be a military alliance.
About regional situation, the document said the stability and security of Asia was increasingly important for European interests and that EU and India should step-up engagement to support the resilience of states, and to address root causes of conflicts through joint approaches and preventive diplomacy.
In 2017, the EU was India’s largest trading partner, while India was the EU’s ninth largest trading partner.
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