India’s role as a major regional and global player is set to expand over the coming years and its journey with the European Union in search of new routes of political, economic and technological cooperation will continue, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Portuguese counterpart Antonio Costa said on Saturday. In a joint op-ed piece in Politico, they said the India-EU leaders’ meeting is an opportunity to expand cooperation in new areas of decisive importance for the development of contemporary societies and economies.
“India’s role as a major regional and global player is set to continue to expand over the coming years, and a strengthened partnership would offer Europe an opportunity to diversify relations in a strategic region of the world,” Modi and Costa said.
In the virtual India-EU leaders’ meeting on Saturday, the two sides are expected to announce the resumption of negotiations for a free trade agreement after a gap of eight years, besides resolving to further broadbase their ties.
“The journey together between the EU and India will be continued and advanced as of tomorrow in search of new routes of political, economic and technological cooperation, with enormous potential for mutual benefits,” the two prime ministers said. Modi and Costa said the India-EU meeting will provide new impetus to the partnership that will have a positive effect on international trade and investment.
“The meeting is a chance to expand cooperation between the EU and India in new areas of decisive importance for the development of contemporary societies and economies: the digital transition, connectivity, mobility, health, the energy transition and climate action,” they said. The two leaders mentioned that the EU is India’s biggest trading partner and the second-largest destination for Indian exports, adding the two-way trade has increased 72 percent in the last decade.
“It is the right time to resume negotiations toward an ambitious and balanced trade agreement capable of acting as a key driver for sustainable growth and jobs creation, both for India and Europe,” they said. “Apart from everything else, an EU-India agreement would send a powerful signal to the world in support of the benefits of international trade cooperation,” they added.
The two prime ministers noted that a similar rationale applies to investment. “The negotiation of an EU-wide investment protection framework would provide greater stability and certainty to companies from India and EU to expand their presence in each other’s markets,” they added.
Modi and Costa said India-EU relations have always been marked by mutual support and solidarity which was evident during the coronavirus pandemic when both have supported each other and the rest of the world. “India extended medical supplies to Europe earlier and now the EU has extended assistance to India as it experiences a second wave of COVID-19,” they said.
The two prime ministers also said that Portugal and India have always played a unique role in bringing the two continents together, both in the distant and recent past. Modi and Costa also said that Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore travelled extensively in Europe in different periods of his life.
“The great poet was a staunch believer in the principles of mutual understanding between peoples and in India’s mission to bring together the East and the West,” they said. “He wrote frequently about the meeting of Europe and India, to which he attributed deep cultural, political and even personal significance: I have felt the meeting of the East and the West in my own individual life, they added.