Even as India and Europe working hard to stitch a free trade agreement (FTA) at the earliest in the background of deepening eurozone debt crisis, they want their present level of cooperation to take the shape of “strategic partnership”. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso talks to Sujay Mehdudia on a range of issues.
Till date, India-EU partnership has been mostly based on trade relations. Has the recent India-EU summit given it shape of a “strategic partnership” in order to take the cooperation to new levels. If yes, how?
India is a key global player, member of the G20, and a natural and strategic partner of the European Union. The EU and India are the world's two largest democracies and share the same basic values — democracy, good governance, rule of law and human rights. The partnership between the European Union and India is, therefore, indispensable to tackle the global challenges that we face — international peace and stability, climate change, energy security, growth and prosperity — and to meet the aspirations of our 1.7 billion citizens. We are deeply committed to enhancing our cooperation with India on peace and security issues in the framework of multilateral organisations such as the UN and also on global economic governance in the framework of the G20.
The eurozone crisis has put Europe on a slowdown phase. What is the impact of its debt crisis on the global economic and political scenario? How could India play a role in helping the eurozone come out of such a situation?
Europe is doing what it takes — and will continue to do what it takes — to restore confidence. The European Union is addressing both the causes and the symptoms of the current crisis with great determination. Let me briefly recall the progress that has been made, the scale of which is often overlooked.
First, we have put in place new rules which greatly strengthen our capacity to ensure sound public finances. These will be further strengthened with the new international treaty recently agreed. Second, we are completing a root-and-branch overhaul of financial regulation and supervision.
Bank recapitalisation is well under way and funding issues are being effectively addressed by the action of the European Central Bank. Third, we have enhanced the flexibility of our firewalls, the EFSF and the future ESM, which should now be operational by July. These firewalls are a key element in our crisis response and it is essential that they have sufficient resources. Another point to note here is that all major economies have a stake in ensuring the stability of the international financial system, including that of the euro area. That is why we fully support the drive to increase contributions to the IMF, to which euro area member-states have already said they will commit a further euro 150 billion. India has an important role to play here.
With terrorism becoming a focal point in global cooperation, how does EU see itself partnering India in the areas of counter-terrorism, cyber security and, of course, anti-piracy operations to bring stability in the region and sharing information on security-related issues?
Growth and prosperity need peace and stability. We share and support India's pursuit for a stable and peaceful regional environment. EU and India, as two important international actors facing the same global security challenges, are committed to work together to jointly address terrorism and extremism, piracy, non-proliferation and attacks to our information technology infrastructure.
Expert meetings have identified avenues for concrete cooperation in 2012 with a focus on counter-terrorism, counter-piracy and cyber-security. Both India and the EU recognise the importance of the activities of the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee chaired by India. We expect the conclusion of negotiations on the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism at the earliest. We are also working towards ensuring that the international financial system is made secure from the threats of money laundering and the financing of terror.
How does EU see India's role in the future of Afghanistan after the allied forces leave Kabul?
We are very much interested in the stability of the region. We appreciate India's efforts and role in rebuilding Afghanistan, and the helping hand it is extending to the country to become more stable and solve problems on its own.
It is important that development, including efforts to strengthen governance in Afghanistan, proceeds hand-in-hand with efforts to find solutions to the conflict and with regional cooperation initiatives.