They say it takes two to tango. If that’s the basic minimum for a relationship to flourish then the one between India and the European Union is in a spot and would need some serious heavy lifting to put it back on track. A big boost to the flagging affair could have been Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Brussels in the second week of April but that now stands cancelled because European Union officials could not confirm the dates.
Accepting that there has been some delay in the European Union responding to India’s dates, a European MP delegation on Monday expressed regret over the non-response and said that they would push for a new date once they are back in the headquarters. Even though the delegation said that the case of the Italian marines should not be blamed for the European Union’s cold response, there is a feeling in New Delhi that it could be one of the causes for the grouping to delay the summit. While there could be some truth in this, it is also true that the relationship has been on a downward curve for several other reasons since 2012, when the last European Union-India Summit was held: Delay in trade negotiations, the euro crisis and policy paralysis during the UPA 2’s term. The talks on the Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement BTIA, which the two were holding since 2007, came to a halt in 2013, when the two parties could not achieve much breakthrough due to the European Union’s concerns in areas including high tariffs on cars and wines, insurance, banking, retail, legal services, geographical indication, and public procurement while India’s concerns were on services.
On the flip side, even though there has been no headway in the BTIA talks, there have been meetings between the two on several other important issues: The European Union -India Environment Forum meeting was held in February and consultations on cyber security and the renewal of the EU-India science and technology agreement are slated to take place very soon. India and the European Union are “natural partners” and, hopefully, the relationship will pick up steam in 2015.