India-EU summit begins, strategic ties on agenda
The two sides will establish a security dialogue covering a range of issues like disarmament and nonproliferation.Updated: Sep 07, 2005 12:47 IST
Indian leaders and a delegation of European Union heavyweights led by British Prime Minister Tony Blair met on Wednesday to finalise a blueprint for expanded security and trade ties.
Blair, who flew in to New Delhi late on Tuesday from Beijing, laid a wreath at Rajghat ahead of a meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as part of the annual India-EU summit.
Blair was accompanied by his wife Cherie and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.
The British premier wrote in the visitors book: "The principle in which he lived his life will endure forever; namely that the only ultimate salvation for humanity comes when people of all colours, race, nations and religions learn to live in peace and harmony with each other. Tony Blair."
Senior trade and business officials from India and the EU, New Delhi's largest trading partner, meanwhile, met at Hyderabad House to discuss ways to boost trade and enhance security cooperation.
Joining Blair at the talks with Singh slated to start later would be Barroso and EU foreign policy high representative Javier Solana, officials said.
Britain holds the rotating presidency of the European Union.
EU officials say the sixth India-EU summit will endorse a political declaration for "enhanced engagement" between Brussels and New Delhi "on all issues of mutual concern".
It will also see the signing of an "action plan" setting out the way forward in political, trade and investment, economic, and cultural and academic relations.
"The European Union and India know and show that they matter to each other more than ever before," said Barroso late last week as he prepared to join Blair on his tour of India and China.
"With our ambitious action plan we will be able to jointly work against terrorism and build up a security dialogue. We will be able to meet common environmental challenges and strengthen our two-way trade and investment."
"Based on our joint values, on our shared commitment to freedom and democracy, we will forge an ever-closer relationship and make the strategic partnership a huge success."
Blair -- accompanied by some 40 British business leaders -- is to stay on in New Delhi on Thursday to meet Indian investors before joining Singh for more talks in Simla.
Britain retains a special interest in India, which the third-largest investor in its growing economy and its fourth-largest trading partner.
Trade in goods and services between the two nations stands at nearly $10 billion a year, according to British figures, representing a big chunk of the 30 billion euros a year in India-EU trade.
There are one million Britons of Indian descent, 16,000 Indian students attend British schools and universities, and 900,000 people travel between the two countries every year.
First Published: Sep 07, 2005 09:17 IST