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Home / India News / India-EU Summit to focus on multilateral order in face of increasingly assertive China

India-EU Summit to focus on multilateral order in face of increasingly assertive China

The 15th India-EU Summit, which was delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak, will be held via video conference on July 15.

india Updated: Jul 12, 2020 21:17 IST
Rezaul H Laskar | Posted by Arpan Rai
Rezaul H Laskar | Posted by Arpan Rai
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
External affairs minister S Jaishankar welcomed by European Council President Charles Michel prior to a meeting at the Europa building in Brussels in February 2020.
External affairs minister S Jaishankar welcomed by European Council President Charles Michel prior to a meeting at the Europa building in Brussels in February 2020.(AP/ File photo)

India and the European Union (EU) will focus on strengthening multilateralism during their upcoming summit this week amid uncertainty created by the Covid-19 pandemic and the rise of an assertive China, people familiar with developments said on Sunday.

The 15th India-EU Summit, which was delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak, will be held via video conference on July 15. The summit will be co-chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

The people cited above, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said both sides felt the need to take the lead in bolstering multilateralism and cooperative international relations against the backdrop of the US ceding its leading role on the world stage.

“This has created a vacuum that needs to be plugged, or else an aggressive China will only become more assertive,” one of the people cited above said. “The whole multilateral system is under stress and many experts have expressed doubts about the future of the global system.”

In a blog titled “In a world of disorder, Europe needs partners” written on July 10, the EU’s high representative for foreign and security policy, Josep Borrell Fontelles, noted that China has become increasingly assertive, while the Covid-19 pandemic was the first major world crisis “where the US is not in the lead” as the US administration has “mostly withdrawn from the global order it has built”.

He further wrote of a “real crisis of multilateralism”, with the G7 and G20 being absent and the UN Security Council paralysed. He added: “Europe feels somewhat lonely, trying to hold the multilateral ring. For sure we know that we need partners.”

Some preparatory work has already been done in this regard and external affairs minister S Jaishankar joined his European and other counterparts for a virtual meeting of the informal Alliance for Multilateralism on June 26, the people said.

This alliance was launched by France and Germany in April 2019 after they felt the need to protect the rules-based multilateral order to ensure international stability and to resolve common challenges through cooperation.

The alliance met in February and April before holding a virtual ministerial meeting on June 26. While participating in that meeting, Jaishankar reiterated India’s call for reformed multilateralism along with purposeful reform of existing structures so that they continue to serve the world even more in this complex and uncertain time.

Jaishankar also referred to the two-pronged attack of “a viral pandemic and misinformation going viral”, and highlighted the need to strengthen scientific approaches to analyse the causes of the Covid-19 pandemic, assess multilateral health mechanisms, and take concrete steps to counter the “infodemic” in the context of a statement adopted by more than 130 states and observers on Covid-19 at the UN.

The EU has already stated that multilateralism, with the UN and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) at its core, is the cornerstone of the grouping’s foreign and security policy. As part of its efforts to strengthen multilateralism, the EU intends to act on three fronts – upholding international norms and agreements, extending multilateralism to new global realities, and reforming multilateral organisations.

In a recent letter to the prime minister, European Commission President von der Leyen suggested common engagement of India and the EU for effective multilateralism and a cooperative approach to international ties, based on their shared values of democracy and pluralism.

The people said India is hoping the July 15 summit can frame their partnership to preserve multilateralism and promote dialogue and cooperation to address global challenges.

The external affairs ministry earlier said the summit will review India-EU cooperation in political and security relations, trade and investment, and economic cooperation. The summit is also expected to discuss developments related to the pandemic.

The EU, in a statement, said the summit will be an opportunity to strengthen the strategic partnership between the two sides and to discuss cooperation in climate, environment, digital economy and connectivity.

The last India-EU Summit was held in New Delhi in October 2017. The EU is India’s largest trading partner, accounting for trade in goods worth 80 billion euros in 2019 or 11.1% of total Indian trade, on par with the US and ahead of China.

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