Security becoming more important in India-EU partnership, say EU's top diplomat | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Security becoming more important in India-EU partnership, say EU's top diplomat

Feb 21, 2024 09:48 PM IST

Sannino said the European side wants an agreement that is ambitious and also opens up markets

Security has emerged as a more important element in the European Union (EU)-India partnership in light of developments in the Indo-Pacific and the Red Sea and both sides are looking to work more closely on hybrid and maritime security, the EU’s senior-most diplomat said on Wednesday.

Twitter Photo
Twitter Photo

Stefano Sannino, secretary general of the European External Action Service, said in an interview that the European side is interested in doing more with India to build on substantial cooperation in the maritime sector, including joint exercises and activities. He said the EU is looking “to replicate and to broaden” its coordinated maritime presence in regions such as the Gulf of Guinea and the northwestern Indian Ocean by working with India.

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Recent developments in the Pacific, the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea – where there has been a string of attacks on merchant vessels by Yemen’s Houthi rebels – have shown the weaknesses created by globalisation, especially when “some countries or some powers” attempt to use pressure to pursue their objectives, Sannino said.

“I think we have rediscovered the security dimension in a very clear way and now we are trying to go much deeper into the work that we can do together,” he said, adding he would explore areas and modalities that can be used to strengthen this cooperation with India during his current visit.

While there has been considerable progress in various strands of the EU-India partnership, such as economic matters, negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA) and technology cooperation, Sannino said both sides are starting to realise the need for “more solid relations when it comes to security” at a time of complex crises. This has led to the idea of doing “much more in areas like hybrid or cyber or maritime security”, he said.

With India and the EU launching the seventh round of negotiations on a proposed FTA this week, Sannino said the European side wants an agreement that is ambitious and also opens up markets. The EU also wants the protection of investments. “I think that, as in all trade negotiations, it's [about] give and take. We must find the balance among the different sectors and different interests,” he said.

While the EU's Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) or a tariff on carbon-intensive products isn't part of these negotiations, it is “part of the logic” to support an economic transition towards a green economy that is able to produce wealth while being sustainable for the environment, he said.

India is only the second country, after the US, with which the EU has established a Trade and Technology Council (TTC) to cooperate on cutting-edge technologies and Sannino said the digital pillar of this initiative is the one with enormous potential for collaboration.

“We think...in this area, we can do more, especially when it comes to critical technologies like quantum computing and artificial intelligence (AI), but also the work that we are doing to imagine different ways of producing these technologies or products which are not yet there,” he said, adding this work dovetails with the EU’s efforts to reduce critical dependencies and diversify supply chains.

With Sannino’s visit to New Delhi coming days ahead of the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, he said it is “very difficult for any of us to say that the crisis...in Ukraine is not a global problem, not least because the consequences are felt globally”. The crisis represents an existential threat to Europe, which believes “Russian imperialism is something that is very dangerous for us”, he added.

“It's a little bit difficult to say we are not interested in what is happening there. There is an effort being led by the Ukrainian authorities to push for a peace conference. There have been many meetings already, in which India has participated in a constructive way. We need to continue working in that direction,” Sannino said. At the same time, the EU will continue supporting Ukraine to achieve its goal of territorial integrity and to be a sovereign country “in charge of its own choices”.

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