NEW DELHI: India and the European Union announced on Monday the launch of a special council to boost trade and tech cooperation, despite divergent views over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen is the latest Western diplomat to visit New Delhi in a bid to press India over its neutral stance on the conflict. India, which gets most of its arms from Moscow, has called for a halt to the violence in Ukraine but stopped short of condemning Russia’s invasion.
“The EU has only one Trade and Technology Council and that is with the US and I think therefore it is telling that it was so important for us to put up a second… with India,” von der Leyen said. The measure is part of a broader EU plan to accelerate trade talks with India and to give New Delhi a viable alternative to diversify away from Russia, Bloomberg News quoted an unnamed source as saying. The “strategic coordination mechanism will allow both partners to tackle challenges at the nexus of trade, trusted technology and security, and thus deepen cooperation in these fields,” India and the Commission said in a joint statement.
Both sides said they had “agreed that rapid changes in the geopolitical environment highlight the need for joint in-depth strategic engagement”. Talks on a free trade agreement between India and the EU have been stuck since 2013 over issues like patent protection and tariff reductions, although both sides agreed in May 2021 to resume negotiations.
The EU is India’s third-largest trade partner and the two sides traded goods worth about 62.8 billion euros ($67.5 billion) in 2020, according to the European Commission. Talks on full free trade deals are underway or due to start soon with multiple countries including Britain, Australia and Zionist entity. India and the United Arab Emirates signed a “milestone” economic deal to boost trade and investment in February. – AFP