October 2007

Vol 7 - No. 4
 

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Letter from Europe | October 2007

 


______________________________________________________________________________

EU-INDIA TIES GROWING 

 

BY RAMESH JAURA * IDN

 

*

Chancellor Angela Merkel
© REGIERUNGonline/Bolesch


Benita Ferrero Waldner
© European Community, 2007

The 27-nation bloc of European countries constituting the European Union (EU) is keen to lend fresh impetus to political and economic relations with India. The EU-India summit to be held in New Delhi on 30th November will provide an appropriate framework for the purpose.

 

The European Commission has entrusted Ambassador and the new head of the Delegation of the European Commission in India, Ms Daniele Smadja, with the task. "I will immediately start working . . .  with my colleagues from the EU," she said presenting her Letters of Credence to India's Presdient Pratibha Patil at the Rashtrapati Bhawan in New Delhi on 26th September.

 

She said she was "also looking forward to the negotiations for a broad-based trade and investment agreement with India." Exploring with the Indian government how the EU could update and upgrade the cooperation agreement on partnership and development will be one of her priorities, Smadja said.

 

The EU launched a "strategic partnership" with India at the Hague summit in 2004. The New Delhi summit one year later endorsed a wide-ranging Joint Action Plan giving substance to the strategic partnership.

 

The Joint Action Plan covers all aspects of EU-India relations, for which it proposes practical steps to be achieved before 2008, when both parties are expected to review and update the document.

 

EU is India's largest trading partner accounting for a fifth of India’s trade. Two-way trade between the EU and India crossed 46 billion euros (65 billion dollars) in 2006 – equivalent to more than one billion dollars per week – marking a growth of 16 percent over the previous year.

 

Official statistics show that EU holds the largest share of foreign direct investment (FDI) inflow into India, at almost three billion dollars in 2006, accounting for one quarter of the total investment. Significantly, there has been a major jump in India's outward FDI and the EU has become the prime destination for India's outward investment, accounting for an estimated 55 percent of the total. 

 

More money for India  

 

EU-India relations are expected to be reinvigorated in the wake of a new Country Strategy Paper for India 2007-2013 being completed. During her visit to India last February, European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero Waldner, announced that the Commission is proposing substantial financial assistance to India over the next seven years.

 

As a result, an amount of 470 million euros (665 million dollars) will be available 2007-2013 to support the implementation of the Joint Action Plan, notably economic cooperation and sectoral dialogues, as well as help India achieve its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the health and education sectors. This represents a substantial increase compared to money provided in the previous years.

 

Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner said in New Delhi: "India is forging ahead. The EU wants to play its part in the emergence of India as a more prosperous nation, playing its role on the international stage on the key issues of our day. We are designing our package to match India's own priorities – economic reforms and progress in health and education – to cement still further the partnership that we are building together."

 

The Commission had committed 225 million euros (318 million dollars) for India for the five years under their Country Strategy Paper 2002-2006. One of the important elements sought to be introduced through the new strategy was the deepening of cooperation with specific states of India chosen, among others, on the basis of identified criteria of financial resources, fiscal stability, governance and transparency. 

'India Window' 

EU-India relations have acquired a new dimension in another significant field: More than 500 Indian students and scholars from all over India have secured admission to a large number of European universities spread all over the 27 EU member states owing to the 'Erasmus Mundus' (EM) scholarship funded by the European Union, and are leaving or have already left India to join their respective Masters level courses in the academic session 2007–2008.

The European Commission allocated a 33 million euros (46.7 million dollars) in 2005 for the 'India Window' within the Erasmus Mundus programme. For the academic year 2005-2006, 133 scholarships for Indian students under the India Window were approved. In 2006-2007 this number rose to 288 and in 2007-2008 to 403. In addition, 81 Indian students and 27 scholars received scholarships under the general EM programme in 2007-2008. 

Growing ties with Germany too  

Bilateral relations between Germany and India have kept pace with the growing ties between the EU and India. India was not only amongst the first countries to set up diplomatic relations with the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1962, the predecessor of the European Union. It was also the first country to end the state of war with Germany and among the first to grant diplomatic recognition to the Federal Republic of Germany. India demonstrated sympathy and support for German reunification in 1990.  

 

"India and Germany are important partners on the international stage – the cooperation ranges from combating terrorism to the reform of the United Nations and the international protection of the environment," says the German foreign ministry on its website.  

Chancellor Merkel to visit India 

Mutual high-level visits have given bilateral relations a considerable impetus. There were state visits to Germany by President Ramaswami Venkataraman in 1989 and President K. R. Narayanan in 1998. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi travelled to Germany in 1988, Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao in 1991, 1993 and 1994, and Prime Minister A. B. Vajpayee in May 2003. The most recent visit was that by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in April 2006. German President Richard von Weizsäcker went to India on a state visit in 1991, and President Johannes Rau in March 2003.

 

Chancellor Helmut Kohl visited the country in 1983, 1986 and 1993. Chancellor Gerhard Schröder paid official visits to India in October 2001 and in 2004. His successor Chancellor Angela Merkel will visit India 29th October to 1st November.

 

The Agenda for Indo-German Partnership in the 21st Century, signed by the two countries’ foreign ministers in May 2000, sets out potential areas for intensifying bilateral relations. Since 23rd April last year, this has been supplemented by a Joint Declaration by Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Singh on strategic partnership between the two countries.

 

Besides providing for closer coordination on regional and global policy – such as Afghanistan, Iran, disarmament, fighting terrorism, climate protection and the reform of the United Nations – the partnership is designed to markedly step up cooperation in the business and energy sectors as well as in science, technology and defence.

 

The Indo-German consultation group, convened by Prime Minister Rao and Chancellor Kohl in 1991 and constituted in Bonn in 1992, makes recommendations for the development of bilateral relations. The group holds annual meetings alternately in Germany and India, mostly recently in Wiesbaden in September 2006. There has been an Indo-German friendship group in the German parliament since 1971; the Indian parliament followed suit in the spring of 2003, setting up the Indo-German Forum of Parliamentarians. 

A dark shadow 

Chancellor Angela Merkel has vowed to combat right-wing violence, which last year rose to its highest level since reunification in 1990 but critics say campaigns to draw people away from radical ideology are still inadequate. According to official sources, around 50 skinhead concerts, traditionally a recruiting ground for far-right groups, took place in the months April to July this year. The number of participants increased to about 6,000 from around 4,500 in the first quarter of the year.

 

But peace marchers protesting the racist attack on the night 18th-19th August on eight Indians at a community fair in Mügeln near the city of Leipzigin Eastern Germany, expressed appreciation for the firm stand taken by the German Government. They however stated that they would not be intimidated by the misdeeds of a small group of racist hot-heads. 

 

A group of about 50 young Germans chased the Indians who sought shelter in a pizza restaurant run by an Indian. Two of the injured Indians who were mostly outdoor market merchants in the region, were hospitalised. The mob of racist Germans shouted slurs such as "foreigners out".  As many as 70 police officers were called to disperse the attackers and restore order. Four assailants and two policemen were also injured in the incident.

 

The silent peace march was organised by members of the Berlin chapter of the Global Organization of the People of Indian Origin (GOPIO), together with other Berliners. The marchers carried flowers as a symbol of peace, respect, love and harmony instead of posters, banners, drums, or loudspeakers. GOPIO Berlin chapter president, Barjinder Sodhi presented a memorandum to the duty officer of German Chancellor.

 

The memorandum demanded prompt completion of investigation of the race riots by the Government investigating agency, providing report to community and punishing the guilty as per law of the land; taking necessary measures to avoid repetition of similar future incidences; and taking steps to ensure safety of immigrants from India.

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