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A virtual summit on EU India: A retrospective on 60 years of Diplomatic relations

Updated: Feb 18, 2022

On 27th January, EICBI organised the first virtual summit of the EUIndia60 campaign. This summit titled "EU India: A retrospective on 60 years of Diplomatic relations" looked at how EU India relations have evolved over the 60 years and the most critical events in EU-India relations over the past 60 years.

The event had several leaders in the EU India corridor and UK India corridor. Some of the leaders who shared their inputs during the summit are as follows.

  • Mr Soren Gade - Member of European Parliament - Denmark/ Chairman - EU Delegation for Relations with India

  • Mr Seppo Nurmi - Deputy Head of Mission - Delegation of the European Union to India

  • Mr Geoffrey Van Orden CBE - Member of European Parliament - UK (1999 - 2020) / Chairman - EU Delegation for relations with India (2014 - 2019)/ EUIndia60 Committee

  • HE Mateja Vodeb Ghosh - Ambassador of Slovenia to India

  • ​Mr Niccolò Rinaldi - Directorate-General for External Policies of the Union - European Parliament

EuropeIndia40 leaders who shared their inputs during the discussion were as follows.

  • Prof Nidhi Piplani Kapur, - Head - Symbiosis Centre for European Studies, Symbiosis International (Deemed University)/ EuropeIndia40 Leader

  • Ms Stefania Benaglia, - Associate Researcher - Center for European Policy Studies/ EuropeIndia40 leader

  • Prof Stefano Greco - Professor and Founder Director, Chitkara Spaak Centre for Multidisciplinary European Studies, Chitkara University Punjab / EuropeIndia40 Leader

  • Cllr Aarein Uday Areti - Councillor - Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea/ EuropeIndia40 leader​

  • Prof Dhanasree Jayaram - Assistant Professor - Manipal Academy of Higher Education/ EuropeIndia40 Leader

  • Dr Jitendra Sharma - Managing Director & CEO - Andhra Pradesh MedTech Zone (AMTZ)/ EuropeIndia40 Leader

  • Mr Ghanshyam Nabar - Director India Partnership - West Midlands Growth Company/ EuropeIndia40 Leader

The recordings from the summit can be viewed here -

The interns from EICBI have scribed the speech given by the speakers during the summit.

Mr Soren Gade - Member of European Parliament - Denmark/ Chairman - EU Delegation for Relations with India

Delivering his keynote address, Mr Soren Gade began his speech by thanking EICBI for inviting him to be a part of the EU India 60 Campaign as a representative of the European Parliament and Chairman of the European Parliament Delegation for relations with India. Due to the pandemic, he couldn't visit India with the rest of the Delegation members of the Parliament in December 2021. Then he proceeded to speak about the relations between the European Union and India, especially between the Lok Sabha and the European Parliament to celebrate the 60 years of Diplomatic Relations between India and the European Union. He addressed 3 key issues which he believes, India and the European Union should/could work together for the benefit of both and almost the 2 billion people they represent.

One of the key issues, where he thinks that India and the European Union can build strong ties is with relation to free trade. He added that trade has increased the living standards for everyone in the past decades and will still be one of the main drivers for economic growth for us, the European Union and India. He wishes that both parties should work towards free trade. He emphasized on the challenges faced in the past when it came to the economic operations between the European Union and India. Considering the cultural, economical and geographical differences, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise, but despite the differences or maybe because of the difference he believes that they can benefit from each other. He is happy to see that the negotiations on the free trade agreements were resumed during the European Indian summit in May, last year, especially, the positive statement by the Honorable Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi. Mr Soren Gade mentioned that the European Union is India’s third-largest trading partner after China and the USA. India is the 10th largest trading partner for the union; this shows that there is room for improvement. He believes that with free trade and investment agreement, these economic figures may go high up, but what he couldn’t understand was why the European Union had established a comprehensive agreement with China and not has done so with India. European Union has long stated that they pursue value based approach with its International agreements and he believes that its time to live up to that ideal by deepening trade relations with India. He told that there are many technical and political decisions to be made before one can reach an agreement. During his years of experience in politics, he has learned that such difficult and lengthy agreements can only be reached if there is not only a mutual interest but a common respect and trust in the negotiation path. “I can ensure you that I will be workingvalue-based to strengthen the trust between India and the European Union from my position as the Chair of the India-European union Delegation”, he said.

Then, he proceeds to state another important issue where India and the EU can strengthen their relations is in the fight against climate change. He says that we are in this together and that we should work together to find a sustainable solution to the shared problem. Neither India nor EU can fight this alone but together we have a much better chance of success. He states that, for a long time, many European countries pursued the policies of the climate nationalists where they focused on themselves at their green pursuits rather than a bigger picture. He believes that if we have a fair chance for fighting against climate change then we need to set national policies aside and work towards international shared solutions. He mentioned that India with its almost 1.4 billion people was believed to be one of the main actors in this transition. He was excited to hear Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement of India’s ambitious climatic goals at the COP26 at Glasgow including the target to cut emissions to net-zero by 2070. He added it is no secret that India is yet to reach its peak ambitions and its developmental needs so it will be hard to reach climate neutrality. He believes that European Union can assist India in many ways with knowledge sharing; foreign investment and good practices; for example, the development of green hydrogen is an area of cooperation. We need to fight climate change but he believes that this should not replace local solutions and local ownership. He said that knowledge sharing is the fundamental supplement in our fight.

At last he wishes to highlight the shared values between the two parties. He mentioned that India is an important strategic partner to the European Union; this is reflected in the 2025 strategic partnership agreement. India and the European Union share beliefs and values in many different areas. Both parties believe in the ,r ule-based trading system, democracy, rule of law and human rights which makes India a natural partner for the European Union and it also means that they can collaborate on promoting these values, both domestically and internationally. He added that, i is no secret; many countries around the world and also in India’s backyard do not live by these values as we do. He believes that it is extremely important, countries with similar fundamentals and basic values work together in order to resist pressure from non-democratic countries. India is the biggest democracy in the world, so he thinks that if there is a collaboration with such a value-driven country, it will strengthen the trade, investment and climate corporation between the two great parties.

In the remaining two and half years of his Parliamentary term, he wishes to contribute towards the development to benefit both, Indian and European populations. He concluded his speech by thanking EICBI for inviting him to speak on these issues and promised to help improve relations between India and European Union, as the Chairman of European Parliaments Delegation.

Mr Geoffrey Van Orden CBE : Member of European Parliament - UK (1999 - 2020) / Chairman - EU Delegation for relations with India (2014 - 2019)/ EUIndia60 Committee

Delivering his keynote address, Geoffrey Van Orden began his talk by thanking EICBI for inviting him to participate in the fascinating, meaningful discussion. He then explained how closely related he is with India because he was a European Parliament politician and a soldier before that. Earlier, he used to study in the Indian Defense Staff College, Tamil Nadu. He mentioned that by 2031, it is said that India will be the 3rd largest economy, and at this moment, it is said to be the 7th largest economy. He recognised that India is a country with dynamic growth having trade routes across Asia, Gulf states and Europe; regional powers, nuclear-weapon states and having connections with countries that some would say are contradictory like Russia, Iran, Israel, Gulf state and many other countries. He added that India had links with European countries for around 500 years. Countries like Portugal, France, and Greece have had quite close connections with India since back then and the United Kingdom. He mentioned India’s links with the United States and Europe, where we see the heart of democracy in trans- Atlantic. He thinks that in today’s world, where there is a question of the battle between democracy and autocracy, India is standing firmly with its democratic government. All countries watch India and want to have close connections so that every country is mutually benefitted. He recalled how Britain took India's side in the discussion in the European Parliament, European commission etc when UK was part of the EU . British citizens rejected the idea of having the union as it may harm their national sovereignty which is also thought by many citizens in the European countries as well. EU being a block of 27 nations wanted to project them as so unified but he thinks that it may not show the true nature of the thing whereas Delhi wants to deal with individual nations in many cases in EU.

He said that as the United Kingdom is not a part of EU now, so it may be a topic of argument that UK still is India’s important strategic and economic partner in Western Europe. He thinks that India has a role in improving relations between UK and EU. He also mentioned about Modi-Johnson India-UK roadmap which will be in 2030 and he thinks that this was a very important decision to be taken. He was happy to hear that India and EU resumed the trade agreement as he recalled that when he was in the European Parliament, there was no progress from the year 2007 to the year 2013 but after that India progressed a lot. He appreciates India being enthusiastic for the bilateral trade as it may have benefitted them but it is all about building relationships beyond trade in economic and strategic realms as well. He talks about the threat to world peace because of problems between Moscow and Ukraine. Also, being in the Covid pandemic has made things difficult, so he wishes that all nations come together to overcome it with the pharmaceutical and research industries within the UK, India, and other European countries. He mentioned regional and international terrorism, and one of the critical concerns is the climatic change, in which India and other European countries have an essential role to play.

In conclusion, he added everyone that faces many problems together. India-Europe relations are significant and long-standing. So he hopes that they can build these relations stronger in the future. With these words, Geoffrey Van Orden ended his keynote address.

Speech by Mr Seppo Nurmi: Deputy Head of Mission - Delegation of the European Union to India

Mr Seppo Nurmi, the Deputy Head of Delegation of the EU to India, delivered his keynote speech in “EU India: A retrospective on 60 years of Diplomatic Relations” virtual summit organized by EICBI on the significant significance event of the 60th anniversary of the EU India relations. He assumed the responsibility of explaining the state of play in the EU India Relations in 2022.

He started by highlighting India & the EU as strategic partners. The multiplicity of agendas that their partnership covers include Clean Energy & Climate Change, Self-Sustainable Urbanization, Environment Co-operation and IT & Communication Technology. He said that since last year; there had been discussions about creating a sustainable and comprehensive connectivity transition plan, which would ensure a mutually beneficial transition into ‘Digitalization’ but, also Transport and P2P connectivity, this is done to promote Green & Digital Energy evolution, Remote Sustainable & Inclusive Economic growth and Resilient Value Change. The EU-Indo Pacific Strategy is another significant step to enhance the Trade & Investment corridor between the EU & India. He emphasised the EU Global Gateway Initiative, which focuses on reducing the Global Investment Gap. This program will initiate sustainable, high-quality projects by considering the needs of partner countries. This will ensure that EU partners develop their societies and economies whilst ensuring High Labour and Environment standards and Sound Financial Management. This will boost India’s Foreign Investment growth even further.

He demonstrated valuable statistics to elaborate on the situation adequately. There are some undeniable positives to be taken into consideration. Firstly, He gave some background into India and the EU’s market potential. He said India has a vast potential market for Investment with a population of 1.4 Bn People, the EU being the World’s Largest Trading Block with recording 16.5% of the world’s Imports & Exports. Trade Relations with 18 countries amounting to 18 Bn Euros. The EU Investment in India is 11% of Total Investment Inflows into India, which amounts to 5.7 Bn Euros. He also mentioned the Trading of Goods and Services scenario between India and the EU. He said there’s an increase of 12.5% in the Trading of Goods between India and the EU in the last decade. Whereas, The Trade of Services recorded an Increase of 32.7 Bn Euros in 2020. Although Inspiring as it may seem, he specified that given the size of the two economies and the potential it carries, there are specific challenges in expanding the EU India Trade and Investment relations. He said that in May 2021, India and the EU resumed negotiations to build a comprehensive and mutually beneficial trade agreement, given the background of the challenges faced by the businesses. Some of the issues faced by European companies especially, Small and Medium Enterprises in India, are High-Import Duties & Non-Tariff barriers, Intellectual Property Enforcement Issues and Country specific Standards and Procurement Laws. Mr Nurmi is hopeful that these negotiations will respond to these challenges and unleash the full potential of these two economies.

He ended his keynote with a positive note by addressing a convergence of interests and shared values, and we should on this convergence of interest. Finally, He is hopeful that there will be several contacts between the two economies this year leading up to a summit. He thanked EICBI for organising this event, one of the first to commemorate this great relationship.

1st Panel Discussion:

How have EU India summits helped build stronger and more strategic EU-India relations?

The summit comprised two-panel discussions with a number of leaders and subject-matter experts of the India EU and India UK corridor, and EuropeIndia40 leaders providing their insights.

The first of the panel discussions chaired by Her Excellency Mateja Vodeb Ghosh addressed the perennially important question ‘How have EU India summits helped build stronger and more strategic EU-India relations?’. To start off, HE Ghosh provided her valuable insights on the evolution of EU-India relations from solely trade and economy-focused affairs to science, technology, space, health, environmental, educational, research and innovation cooperation amongst others. Her Excellency highlighted critical milestones in the history of India-EU diplomatic relations including the opening of the EU delegation of India in 1993, the EU-India Cooperation Agreement of 1994, the first EU-India Summit of 2000 at Lisbon and the Summits of 2004, 2016, 2020 ad 2021 that carried ties beyond the economic sphere and into the political one.

The first panellist was a EuropeIndia40 leader and Associate Researcher at the Centre for European Policy Studies, Ms Stefania Benaglia who primarily touched upon what sets the EU-India 2021 summit apart from the previous ones. She emphasized the significance of the meeting as it was an extended leader’s meeting between PM Modi and the Heads of States of all the 27 EU members, a unique honour bestowed upon the country to further diplomatic ties. She identified specifically that Foreign policy and partnerships with a country like India as the main deliverable and topic of discussion of the European Presidency has resulted in a complete shift in the narrative to a more positive view on the partnership with diplomatic relations preceding over economic relations and policymakers driving the same. Finally, Ms Benaglia stressed on the importance of bridging the gap between high expectations and the actual implementation of actions through communication with civil society.

The second panelist, Councillor Aarien Areti of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea gave us his insights on the significance of the sixth, fourteenth and fifteenth EU-India Summits in 2005, 2017 and 2019 respectively. 2005 saw the term ‘strategic partnership’ first used to refer to the EU-India partnership and the proposition of a Joint Action Plan which created opportunities for developments for both parties in numerous sectors (the first of its kind for India) despite previous unfruitful negotiations. While the 14th summit saw a strong engagement of the EU Investment bank in a number of sectors, Councillor Areti underlined the role of the 15th summit in 2020 in the transition of the ‘strategic’ EU-India partnership into a ‘natural’ partnership with more multilateral discussions on aligning with the NATO and WTO. Councillor Areti wishes for better engagements of India with other Eastern European nations like Poland, Slovakia and Romania.

The third panelist was Professor Stefano Greco, Founder-Director of the Chitkara Spaak Centre for Multidisciplinary European Studies, and a passionate EU-India activist. During his discussion, Prof. Greco revealed his views on the role of the Summits in pushing cooperation between non-governmental stakeholders as a part of the academic arena by making EU-India relations more visible to civil society thanks to media coverage. He believes that this visibility has played a vital role in indirectly boosting EU-India relations by piquing the interest of small-medium enterprises, increasing business networks, and incentivizing non-governmental stakeholders to organise parallel summits on both traditional and creative sectors. Mr Greco pointed out that such parallel summits are key to bringing forward critical voices to address topics that are discussed less openly at the governmental level.

Our final panellist of the first discussion was Ms Nidhi Piplani Kapur, Head of the Symbiosis Centre for European Studies. Ms Kapur provided her views on how Education Diplomacy and Research fit into the current EU-India dynamic, considering popular issues like climate change. Of the opinion that education is critical to soft power politics between the EU and India and the safeguard of democracy, she underlined the various initiatives pioneered and partnerships established between India and the EU through Research and innovation which have contributed to the surge in developments in the fields of climate change, clean energy, urban development, and sustainability even in the face of divergence in development trajectories. While scholarships and assistance from the EU have rendered more accessible European Higher Education to Indian students, she emphasized the need, on the other hand, to attract greater full-time European students to India.

2nd Panel Discussion:

EU India Legends- Leaders who built EU India relations over the past 60 years

This discussion was based on the eminent individuals who built on the relationship between the EU and India, the individuals who inspired many others in the field of Business, Geo-Politics, Sports, Art, Academia etc.

The panel for this discussion included speakers who are successful businesspersons, renowned member of Academia and EuropeIndia40 leaders, the likes of Dr Dhanasree Jayaram, Dr J.K. Sharma, and Mr Shyam Nabar. Mr Niccolo Rinaldi, Head of Asia-Australia, New Zealand segment and Directorate General of External Policies of Union-European Parliament, was the moderator of this discussion.

Mr Rinaldi said leaders are ordinary people who become leaders after encountering a turning point in their life. He mentioned the person who inspired him was ‘Filippo Sassetti’, a 16th-century traveller, a fellow Florentine, who travelled to India, married an India, adopted a vegetarian diet. Filippo Sassetti proved to be a revolutionary figure to change the perceptions of Europeans towards Indians. He opposed many exploitative practices by the Europeans, such as the Looting of Hindu Temples, the Destruction of Mosques etc. He was the first one to understand the common origin of Indo-European languages.

The first panelist was Dr Dhanasree Jayaram, Assistant Professor, Manipal Academy of Higher Education. The critical point in her discussion was the ‘Climate Change’ discussions between the EU and India. According to her, the outcome of their discussions was ineffective until a few years back because of some ideological differences. Some misconceptions and misdemeanours by the European community led to no progression in terms of Climate and Environment Protection. The Paris Summit was the first major step in building a partnership concerning ‘Climate Change’. In her opinion, not only individual leaders but communities have become leaders. G-20 is one such community that has gone leaps and bounds in that regard. She has worked in Alexander Von Humboldt Foundation, where she has built strong connections with Germany. Dr Frank E. Yeomans is an important figure who inspired her at the start of her career.

Dr J.K. Sharma, Managing Director & CEO, Andhra Pradesh MedTech Zone (AMTZ) & Executive Director, Kalam Institute of Health Tech, was the next speaker on the panel. He also worked for WHO. He contributed some essential points. He believes Medical Technology can be a very effective tool for softer diplomacy. Especially after the pandemic, the relationship between India and the EU and other countries of the world have improved significantly because of Medical Technology. India is the net exporter of Oxygen Concentrators for over 30 countries globally. In his opinion, Med Tech will “make us understand each other’s perspectives with immense respect for each other’s limitations.” He said we could have a Bilateral trade of Medical Knowledge by exchanging each other’s strengths. EU, the leader in researching non-communicable diseases and India, the leader in diagnostic space, is one of the spaces we can work on.

Mr Shyam Nabar, Director of India Partnership, West Midlands Growth Company, was the next panellist. He mentioned some notable figures who have inspired him and his career as someone linked to both the UK and India. The first notable figure he mentioned was Dadabhai Naoroji, the first person of Indian Origin to be elected in the House of Commons. He left India on 27th January 1855 to work for a mercantile company in the UK, and later, he started his own company, which proved to be successful. Professor Baron Kumar Bhattacharya was the architect of the Industrial/Manufacturing sector in the UK by founding the Warwick Manufacturing group. Freddie Mercury was one of his main inspirations. Noor Inayat Khan was a British-Indian spy who was immensely important during World War 2. The current Home Secretary of the United Kingdom, Priti Patel and last but not least, Mother Teresa, who was the ambassador of Europe to India, will always be known for her Sacrifice and Service.


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