Recent EU leaders’ talks with the Indian Prime Minister focused on developing bilateral trade relations to deal with the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus and escalating tensions with China. The talks were attended by the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission on behalf of the European Union and the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi.
The volume of bilateral trade between India and the European Union in 2019 amounted to 101 billion euros, and the Indian and European parties are seeking to conclude a preferential trade agreement through ongoing negotiations. The European Union is India’s largest trading partner and largest investor.
As part of its macro-policies, the EU seeks to conclude bilateral trade agreements with its partners to set stronger bilateral standards, while India’s macroeconomic strategy is to secure its trade rights independently and within the framework of international regulations.
Vikas Swarup a senior Indian Foreign Ministry official on the tripartite summit said that the start of high-level trade and investment talks was one of the achievements of the tripartite summit and that the parties were ambitious in their commitment to a balanced trade and investment agreement. The interests of both sides have been emphasized.
Although the issue of China is not directly addressed in Brussels-Delhi relations, the text of the roadmap for the EU-India Strategic Partnership emphasizes the willingness of the two trading partners to work together to “ensure peace, stability, security and safety, especially in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific.”
The People’s Republic of China has significant territorial claims in the Pacific, which are opposed by many regional partners. The European Union has also imposed and condemned China’s new security law for the Hong Kong Autonomous Territory, postponing the European-Beijing summit indefinitely.
Sino-Indian relations have escalated following last month’s border clashes between Indo-Chinese troops and the killing of a number of troops on both sides.
Twenty Indian troops and an unknown number of Chinese were killed in border clashes between India and China on June 15 for the first time in 45 years. The loss of Indian forces angered the people of India, fueled an anti-Chinese atmosphere in India, and put severe pressure on the government of Prime Minister Modi.
Given the tense Washington-Beijing relationship, the Sino-Indian military conflict is favoured by the Americans because, in principle, and in the event of war, Delhi should count on Washington’s support, which Delhi has also been vigilant about, and in fact, it does not consider tension creation in relations with neighbours advisable.
In addition to deepening ties with the European Union, India is strengthening its relations with other regional powers, such as Japan, to consolidate its position towards China, and the construction of the Ahmad Abad-Mumbai Expressway with Japanese investment will be operational in two years.
India-Japan Transport Cooperation is, in fact, a response to the Chinese “Belt and Road Initiative” project, which is being built by Beijing to rehabilitate the $900 billion Silk Road.
Western experts say that Europe, in close proximity to countries like India, should keep in mind that the country has always claimed non-alignment since independence and that this tendency could affect future relations between Europe and India. India remains an active and effective member of the British-led Commonwealth, the first country to leave the European Union.
Some anti-Chinese views in Europe also believe that democracies must unite against China and give it a strong response to leave international markets. These thoughts stem from the situation in Germany before World War I and the damage that Europe suffered.
Relations with Tokyo are another concern of the European Union. During Japan’s talks with EU officials in the past, the two sides emphasized the implementation of bilateral agreements on the operation of the free trade project and the facilitation of economic relations.
The lack of consensus among EU members on how to engage definitively with China has created a situation in which the EU has shown inequality in its ability to confront China; in other words, a “united Europe” against a “single China” is doomed to lack of unity.