The European Union (EU) is India’s largest regional trading partner with bilateral trade amounting to €72.3 billion($77.2 billion) in 2014. India and the EU became strategic partners in 2004 at the 5th India-EU Summit at the Hague. They regularly cooperate on a number of issues such as energy and security in multilateral fora like the UN, IMF etc.
Gateway House interviewed Shada Islam, Director of Policy at Friends of Europe, a Brussels-based think tank, on topics ranging from the India-EU Free Trade Agreement (FTA) to Make in India and cooperation on climate change.
Shada Islam: “It’s really significant that he (PM Modi) did come (to Europe) and went to France and Germany – very important European powers. I do regret, I have to say, that he couldn’t make it to Brussels which is the headquarters of the EU, that would have been a very significant gesture.”
Shada Islam: “The EU-India relationship has not really taken off. People pay lip service to ‘partnership’ and ‘strategic relations’ etc., but when push comes to shove, these relationships can be much more significant and can have much more oomph than there is at the moment.”
Shada Islam: “I was heartened to see that German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister Modi talked about getting the EU-India FTA talks back on track, which I think is quite significant. When Merkel jumps in and puts her weight in an initiative like that, there is a very good chance that this will be followed by other countries.”
Manufacturing in India
Shada Islam: “When we look at India today, we don’t see it as a interesting manufacturing centre. Its got a great reputation for its service industry, for tech, for software production, but manufacturing is not seen as India’s forte. So I think the PM and India generally will have to work to get this reputation as a manufacturing hub into our perceptions.”
Shada Islam: “When countries like India and China come up with their own ideas of creating an investment bank or security council, there is a wariness in Europe about letting go off the privileges they have acquired over the last 60 years, and that has to change in Europe.”
Shada Islam: “I hope there is a chance we can get a deal with India and China on this very important issue…Europe is very legally focused on binding targets on climate change and of course emerging countries like India reluctantly do that because they have so much development ahead of them.”
Hosted by Dev Lewis, Digital Media and Content Coordinator, Gateway House