By Amit Agnihotri
New Delhi: With the COVID-19 pandemic threatening global security, health and economy, India and European Union (EU) today agreed to strengthen response capacities, apart from calling for free, transparent and prompt sharing of information on such threats.
Of course, they did not directly name China for suppressing information on the COVID-19 in the Joint Statement issued after their virtual summit, but what was left unsaid was the elephant in the room.
The world dealing with the impact of COVID-19 that originated in Wuhan in China, India and the EU resolved to work together to counter the Asian dragon based on shared values of democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights.
“As the world is fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, the leaders agreed that global cooperation and solidarity are essential to protect lives and to mitigate the socio-economic consequences of the pandemic,” the joint statement, issued after the 15th India-EU Virtual Summit, said.
“The leaders emphasised the importance of strengthening our preparedness and response capacities, of sharing information in a free, transparent and prompt manner, and of improving international response including through relevant international organisations, such as the World Health Organisation (WHO), drawing on lessons learned from the current global responses.”
China, with the WHO’s active backing, had delayed announcing the Coronavirus threat to the world population. While a miffed United States has pulled out of the WHO and stopped all funding to the global body, the EU had moved a proposal at the World Health Assembly to probe the pandemic. Though China was initially reluctant to allow a team of WHO experts to visit the country as part of the probe, it has of late relented.
Australia too had slammed China over the pandemic and faced several tariff impositions as a result. The deepening of the India-Australia relationship recently has also riled the Chinese government, which sees it happening at the insistence of the US.
Modi briefed the EU leaders about India’s ongoing border dispute with China along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh and the de-escalation being implemented by the two armies.
In this light, India and the EU leaders decided to strengthen the India-EU Strategic Partnership, based on shared principles and values of democracy, freedom, rule of law, and respect for human rights, aiming at delivering concrete benefits for their people.
As the world’s two largest democracies, India and the EU affirmed their determination to promote effective multi-lateralism and a rules-based multilateral order with the United Nations (UN) and the World Trade Organisation at its core. The EU is looking forward to India’s G20 presidency in 2022 and its membership in the UN Security Council in 2021-2022, stated the two EU leaders.
Besides, leaders of India and the EU agreed to cooperate in the areas of peaceful use of nuclear, renewed a pact to push science and technology and decided to take forward resource efficiency and a circular economy.
However, the India-EU Strategic Partnership, which provides a roadmap to take the bilateral relationship to its next level till 2025 was the key achievement of the summit.
“India and the EU have a common interest in each other’s security, prosperity and sustainable development. They can contribute jointly to a safer, cleaner and more stable world,” said the roadmap document.
This would include enhancing exchanges in the context of Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum, and strengthening cooperation towards tangible outcomes on shared objectives of non-proliferation and disarmament, maritime security, counter-terrorism (including counter-radicalisation, anti-money-laundering and countering terrorism financing) and cyber security.
Particularly important is establishing a maritime security dialogue replacing the counter-piracy dialogue and explore opportunities for further maritime cooperation and deepen cooperation between the Indian Navy and the European Union Naval Force (EUNAVFOR) ATALANTA.
Talking of terrorism, the role of Pakistan as a global safe haven for terrorists and its role in fomenting trouble in India and elsewhere was also discussed during the India-EU Summit, said Swarup.
India and the EU leaders also agreed to boost trade and investment and decided to establish a High-Level Dialogue at ministerial level to provide political guidance to the bilateral trade and investment relation. India is the largest trade partner of the EU with volumes worth over $100 billion.
The two sides decided to expand cooperation on climate and environment protection issues and agreed to continue joint efforts to promote an open, free, stable and secure cyberspace and increase cooperation on cyber security.
Another key agreement reached during the summit related to implementation of the India-EURATOM Agreement on research and development cooperation in the field of the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and a joint working group on artificial intelligence.