NEW DELHI: As India and Europe prepare to meet this summer for a special informal summit, both sides are converging on key outcomes. On May 8, India, led by PM Narendra Modi, will hold a summit meeting with all 27 heads of government of the European Union in the Portuguese city of Porto. The summit will be followed by a bilateral meeting between Modi and Portuguese PM Antonio Costa, as well as a business round-table between Indian and European industry.
European sources said Europe and India are now converging on their national and continental priorities. “We have five priorities. All these are priorities for India,” a source said.
They described these as green transition, digital transition, social transition, resilience and “openness”, a reaffirmation of a multipolar world.
“Europe believes there should be a multipolar Asia because India’s role in Asia is just as important as the relationship between Europe and Asia,” an EU official said. An early February ‘17+1’ summit between China and Eastern European countries saw an unprecedented six dropouts — Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia and the three Baltic states — raising eyebrows among China watchers in Europe and Asia.
Last week, Valdis Dombrovskis, European Commission executive vice-president responsible for trade, said, “We recently had a high-level economic dialogue between the EU and India and we are also exploring options on what can be done in the area of trade, keeping in mind the EU-India summit.” The new trade strategy of the EU also refers to a partnership with India as one of the aims. Portugal took over the presidency of the EU in January. Interestingly, the first India-EU summit in 2000 was also under a Portuguese presidency, officials said.
Europe has to approve its own climate law, with the aim of becoming the first carbon-neutral continent by 2050. Digital transition, they said, is self-explanatory. Social transition has become important in the aftermath of the pandemic, which will include steps to protect citizens from the effects of the pandemic. “We will have a social summit simultaneously on the day of the India summit,” a source said.
Economic resilience is crucial, as economies splutter after the pandemic. But the European side is looking at more than economic resilience as part of its priorities. A reaffirmation of “common values” will be on the cards — “democracy, rule of law and respect for minorities”. The last priority they list is “openness” — which is interpreted as being as much about pushing back against protectionism as it is about reiterating the importance of a multipolar world. India is one of the big votaries of a multipolar world. From the Indian perspective, the summit will give it an opportunity to showcase its commitment to climate, connectivity and trade and investment.