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Transcript of Virtual Special Media Briefing on India-EU Summit by Secretary (West) (July 15, 2020)

July 17, 2020

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Friends, Namskar and Good Evening. Welcome to this special briefing in the virtual format on the India-EU Summit.

I have with me, Secretary (West) in the Ministry, Mr. Vikas Swarup. He is joined by Mr. Sandeep Arya, Joint Secretary (Europe West) and Mr. Sandeep Chakravarty who is Joint Secretary Designate. May I now invite Secretary (West) to make his initial remarks after which he will answer your questions. Over to you, sir.

Shri Vikas Swarup, Secretary (West): Thank you Anurag. Friends, the 15th India-EU Summit has just concluded. It was held in virtual mode and attended by the Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi, the President of the European Council, Mr. Charles Michel and the President of the European Commission, Ms. Ursula von der Leyen. Our External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar, National Security Adviser, Shri Ajit Doval and the EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Mr. Josep Borrell also attended the Summit.

Our relationship with the European Union is a very active one. It covers virtually all dimensions – political, economic, security, trade and investment, environment, research and innovation, education and culture underpinned by strong people to people ties. The EU is our largest trading partner for goods with trade exceeding $100 billion. We also have a large service trade of about $40 billion. EU is one of the largest investors in India with cumulative investment of over $91 billion. The EU is also an important source for technology, innovation and best practices.

The Summit was held in a very cordial atmosphere marked by mutual respect and appreciation between the leaders, which has been a hallmark of past interactions between them. The discussions covered joint response to the pandemic, strengthening India-EU Strategic Partnership & its various dimensions, as well as our convergences and our collaboration on the global arena covering multilateralism, international organizations & contemporary developments.

In the context of the pandemic, both sides recognized the value of joint, collaborative responses at the global level. PM appreciated EU’s global coronavirus initiative for accelerating access to Covid-19 Tools – vaccines, treatment and diagnostics. Recognizing each other’s strengths and mutual synergies such as our role in pharmaceuticals & research, the EU and India agreed to intensify cooperation in response to coronavirus, including availability, accessibility and affordability of Covid-19 tools. Both President Michel and President von der Leyen greatly appreciated the timely assistance provided by India in terms of supply of medicines to EU countries. They sought India’s active engagement in the initiative of universal and affordable vaccine for all.

The leaders on both sides affirmed their strong interest and full commitment to develop the India-EU strategic partnership to new levels. They adopted the Strategic Partnership: Roadmap to 2025 as the new framework to upgrade the relationship in diverse fields – foreign policy, security, trade & investment, economic collaboration, cooperation on innovative & climate-friendly solutions, digital technologies and connectivity of the broad-based trade and investment agreement.

The Leaders recognized that post Covid economic recovery priorities offer opportunities to unleash the full potential for their economic ties, including discussion on supply chain linkages between India and Europe. Prime Minister invited European companies for FDI in India taking into account our efforts to improve ease of doing business, regulatory environment and our aim to integrate India with global value supply chains.

Ongoing cooperation and intensifying it for modernization and sustainable development priorities were also discussed covering investments, financing, technology, best practices and capacities. India welcomed European participation in urban transport project such as metro projects in Pune and Bhopal, renewable energy covering several solar & wind power projects, smart city projects and waste recycling. The EU conveyed its strong commitment to the climate-friendly future "European Green Deal” and its interest in collaborating more closely on such solutions. EU appreciated India’s initiatives of International Solar Alliance and Coalition of Disaster Resilient Infrastructure and both sides agreed to reinforce their cooperation on these initiatives. The Leaders adopted a Joint Declaration on Resource Efficiency and Circular Economy.

The development of the digital economy was discussed and upgrading bilateral dialogue on technology such as artificial intelligence & 5G was agreed by the leaders. They appreciated ongoing research & innovation cooperation which involves projects in areas such as healthcare, water, energy, transport, food and information & communication technologies. The leaders decided to renew the India-EU Agreement on scientific and technological cooperation that will enable further research collaboration. The leaders also welcomed the conclusion of Agreement between Euratom (European Atomic Energy Community) and India for cooperation in research and development in the field of peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The leaders agreed for the two sides to explore a future comprehensive connectivity partnership. President von der Leyen proposed an India – EU Joint Working Group on Artificial Intelligence which was welcomed by Prime Minister Modi.

The leaders noted the ongoing exchanges and cooperation in the area of foreign policy and security such as political consultations, naval cooperation and agreed to strengthen maritime cooperation further through a new dialogue on maritime security. They underlined the need to preserve the stability and safety of the Indian Ocean. Combating terrorism, terrorist financing, countering radicalization and abuse of internet for these purposes was also discussed. The two sides will intensify their exchanges and cooperation in this area.

The leaders discussed the contemporary global environment and the need to strengthen multilateralism and joint, coordinated responses based on dialogue and cooperation and respect for a rules-based international order. In the context of India’s upcoming membership of the UN Security Council and G20 Presidency, there was mutual interest in more active engagement and cooperation between the two sides.

In overall terms, the 15th India-EU Summit has helped consolidate our partnership with the European Union and provided a new roadmap to upgrade the relationship in all areas. As two large unions of diversity, sharing values of democracy, pluralism and rule of law and a commitment to a rules based international order and effective multilateralism, the partnership between India and the EU is a force for good in our complex world.

Five documents were concluded during the virtual summit. I will now give brief details of each of them.

i) The Joint Political Statement summarizes the deliberations and convergences between the two sides on various dimensions of bilateral cooperation, global issues of common interest and joint coronavirus response.

ii) The India-EU Strategic Partnership: Roadmap to 2025 summarizes the framework of our dialogue and cooperation covering wide ranging areas including foreign and security policy, trade & investment, modernization, sustainable development, research and innovation, education and exchange of scholars, migration and mobility, and global governance.

iii) The India-European Atomic Energy Community Agreement on research and development cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy will enable collaboration between the Department of Atomic Energy and EURATOM on issues such as civil applications of atomic energy in areas such as (agriculture, healthcare, industry), radioactive waste management, fusion, nuclear safety & security.

iv) Renewal of Science and Technology Cooperation Agreement for another 5 years will enable continuation of scientific projects and research exchanges in areas such as biotechnology, clean energy, e-mobility, energy efficiency, marine sciences, etc.

v) Joint Declaration on Resource Efficiency and Circular Economy will enable dialogue and cooperation in areas such as policy & regulations, exchange of best practices and capacities, and technical exchanges in areas such as energy efficiency, waste management, recycling, circular business models in areas such as mobility, ICT, mobility, construction, food and textiles sector.

This concludes my opening statement on the India – EU Summit. I am now happy to take questions.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Thank you, sir. I will now move on to the questions. I received a set of questions on trade. These questions largely want to know whether any headway has been made on the FTA, whether India is in favour of a free trade agreement with the European Union, whether the EU has proposed a separate investment protection agreement before an FTA has negotiated? Similar questions have been asked by Jomy Thomas from Malayala Manorama, Shankar Kumar from India vs Disinformation, Maha from News18, Athar from Times Now, Kamaljit from Aaj Tak, and Manas from PTI. Would you like to respond to this?

Shri Vikas Swarup, Secretary (West): Yes, I think all of them can be clubbed together and I can give a combined answer to the various queries that have been raised considering the broad-based trade and investment agreement. Now as you know, India and the EU have held negotiations on this broad based trade and investment agreement for quite some time, but since 2013 those negotiations have not ready taken place. So, after the taking over by the new European Commission in December last year, our Commerce and Industry Minister, and EU Trade Commissioner have met, and they have exchanged readiness to engage on the matter. The leaders discussed it at our Summit today, in the context of the post covid economic recovery priorities on both sides, interest in the diversification of supply chain linkages, strong emphasis on both sides for realizing the full potential for trade and investment ties between India and the EU, and addressing trade related issues on both sides. Our Prime Minister emphasized the priority that we attach to attracting foreign direct investment and continued efforts of the government of India to liberalize the regulatory environment, as well as, further improve the ease of doing business. He invited European businesses to utilise the opportunities in India and conveyed that Aatmnirbhar Bharat is aimed at integrating domestic production in India to global supply chains. So, during the 15th Summit discussions today, one of the most important outcomes was the setting up of this high-level dialogue on trade and investment relations, which will discuss all trade and market issues, as well as supply chain linkages. The two sides have expressed their commitment and agreed to work for a balanced, ambitious and mutually beneficial trade and investment agreements. The high-level dialogue which will be held in the coming months is expected to provide high-level guidance and directions to take these two agreements forward.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: The next question is whether the India-China LAC situation was discussed? And in fact, there are a few questions from others also on these lines. The questions have been asked by Sidhant from WION, Atharv from Times Now, Deepak Ranjan from PTI Bhasha, Kamaljit from Aaj Tak, Manas from PTI, Sridhar from Asian Age, and Pankaj Pandey from Hindustan.

Shri Vikas Swarup, Secretary (West): Well, I would say, as part of the review of global and regional developments, our relations with China did come up. Prime Minister shared our views on the India-China relationship in general and the current situation in the border areas.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: So, the next question is from Sidhant. He wants to know how much was cross-border terror and issue under discussion in this Summit?

Shri Vikas Swarup, Secretary (West): Well, as you would see from the joint statement that both the leaders went into considerable detail, in exchanging views on the shared challenge of terrorism, which is a problem faced by all countries. In this context, of course, Pakistan came up, both in the context of the activities that it has been continuing against India and other countries in the region, as well as in the context of global terrorism.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Ranjit Kumar from Rakshak News wants to know - "Maritime security issues in areas like South China Sea, Indian Ocean, were they discussed during the Summit?"

Shri Vikas Swarup, Secretary (West):Well, I would refer him to the Joint statement and para 10 of the joint statement, which clearly says, the leaders agreed to launch a dialogue on maritime security and consultations on security and defence, and to enhance naval cooperation. They underline the need to preserve safety and stability in the Indian Ocean. The EU side greatly appreciated the naval escort that has been provided by the Indian Navy to the world food programme and sought greater cooperation between the EU-Atalanta and the Indian Navy.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Was the human rights issue with reference to J&K and CAA raised by EU at the Summit? This is a question from Shridhar from Asian Age and there's a similar question from Maha from CNN News18.

Shri Vikas Swarup, Secretary (West): Yes, there was a glancing reference by President, Charles Michel, in the context of the EU having a much better understanding of these issues. Thanks to the discussions that were held during the visit of our External Affairs Minister to Brussels in February this year, and you would have seen the EU press conference in which they answered this and they express their faith in Indian institutions in addressing these issues.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: The next question is from Natalie, "I would like to ask how far the India-EU water partnership has progressed?"

Shri Vikas Swarup, Secretary (West): Well, there also I would point you to the India-EU strategic partnership, "Roadmap to 2025", which has a pretty detailed exposition on the water partnership between India and the European Union. Both sides have agreed now to strengthen water related matters to the joint working group on water and the India-EU water forum, as well as in the context of the India-EU water partnership. We will ensure continuous support for the IEWP in different priority areas, reflecting the need for combination of good governance and coordination, as well as, appropriate strategies, technical approaches, research and innovation technologies. They will enhance the partnership between stakeholders on both sides to enable the sharing of standards, best practices in sectors, such as water management. So, obviously this was an important area of discussion between India and EU.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: So, there is a follow-up question from Nainima from The Print. Was there any discussion on defence procurement from EU by India?

Shri Vikas Swarup, Secretary (West): There was no great detailed discussion on this particular aspect, but both sides did agree on the need to scale up the defence partnership between India and the EU. And as you know top officials from the defence side had visited India in January this year and some good discussions have been held at that time.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: There is another follow-up question on the BTIA from Elizabeth Roche, "Is there a time frame set for conclusion of the BTIA?"

Shri Vikas Swarup, Secretary (West): There is no time frame set for the conclusion of the BTIA, but both sides have agreed that the two Ministers who have been now been mandated to take this discussion forward should meet as early as possible. Hopefully, in the next few months.

Shri Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: I don't see any further questions. So this concludes our briefing. Thank you very much for joining and thank you, sir.

Shri Vikas Swarup, Secretary (West): Thank you very much.

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