INDIAN prime minister Narendra Modi and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen on Monday (25) announced the setting up of an India-EU Trade and Technology Council (TTC), a strategic mechanism to tackle key trade, economic and technological challenges.
India is the second country after the US to have such a mechanism with the 27-nation EU.
The Ukraine crisis figured in the talks between Modi and von der Leyen.
Modi stressed the importance of giving peace a chance and the need to return to dialogue and diplomacy as the only way to achieve peace, according to the Indian ministry of external affairs.
It said both sides expressed concern about the humanitarian situation in Ukraine and called for an immediate end to violence.
The European Commission president’s two-day visit to India came amid efforts by Western powers to impress upon New Delhi to reduce the depth of its ties with Russia in view of its invasion of Ukraine.
She also called on Indian president Ram Nath Kovind and had a meeting with external affairs minister S Jaishankar.
In their talks, Modi and von der Leyen touched upon climate-related issues, possible India-EU collaboration on green hydrogen, challenges of Covid-19 and the situation in Afghanistan, Myanmar and developments in the Indo-Pacific.
“Both sides agreed that rapid changes in the geopolitical environment highlight the need for joint in-depth strategic engagement,” the EU said in a statement.
“The TTC will provide the political steer and the necessary structure to operationalise political decisions, coordinate technical work, and report to the political level to ensure implementation and follow-up in areas that are important for the sustainable progress of European and Indian economies,” it said.
People familiar with the development said the TTC will facilitate cooperation in high-tech areas like 5G, quantum computing, climate modelling and healthcare solutions among others.
The EU had sent the proposal to India for setting up of the TTC just a few days back and New Delhi promptly accepted it considering the strategic significance of the mechanism.
“Today, our relationship is more important than ever. We have so much in common,” von der Leyen said in her opening remarks during the meeting with Modi.
Modi invited the EU’s increased participation in the green energy sector in India with a focus on green hydrogen.
In a tweet, Modi said he was delighted to hold talks with the European leader and that both sides reviewed the “full range of India-EU ties including economic and cultural linkages.”
“We are vibrant democracies, we both support wholeheartedly the rules-based international order and we have both large economies, and we are both facing a challenging global landscape,” von der Leyen said.
“For the European Union, the partnership with India is one of our most important relationships for the coming decade and strengthening this partnership is a priority.”
The EU said the EU-India TTC will allow both partners to tackle challenges “at the nexus of trade, trusted technology and security, and thus deepen cooperation in these fields.”
It said both sides agreed that rapid changes in the geopolitical environment highlight the need for joint in-depth strategic engagement.
According to it, the shared values and common interests of the EU and India offer a strong basis to intensify mutually beneficial and deeper strategic cooperation.
“The European Union and India are bound by decades of close partnership and are determined to increase joint efforts to tackle current challenges and address geopolitical circumstances,” it said.
“I am thinking of three main topics – trade, technology and security. That is why I am pleased that today Prime Minister Modi and I have agreed to establish an EU-India Trade and Technology Council,” von der Leyen in her meeting with Modi.
“The EU has only one TTC so far – with the US, and I think it is telling that we now establish the second one with India. Also because India is technologically a powerhouse, and in the trade sector we need to unleash an enormous amount of untapped potential,” she said.
The European Commission president said the EU will “diversify away” from fossil fuels and will invest heavily in clean renewable energy.
“Therefore, cooperation with India not only on solar but also on green hydrogen is critical,” she said.