Prime Minister Narendra Modi embarks on a visit to three European countries -- Germany, Denmark and France -- for bilateral as well as multilateral engagements today. On this trip, the India-EU Connectivity Partnership, trade and clean energy will form an intrinsic part of his comprehensive economic agenda, which India is looking at leveraging for a deeper and more multifaceted economic and strategic engagement with key countries of Europe and their business communities.
“The idea here is to harvest, harness the complementarities of the two economies and within the complementarities to look at specific domains in which there are precise capacity matches between what Denmark and Germany have to offer and what India has to offer,” Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra told Swarajya on Sunday.
The outreach visits come amidst a significant momentum in economic and strategic initiatives between India and the EU, underscored by the visit of the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen to India who with Prime Minister Narendra Modi agreed to launch the EU-India Trade and Technology Council.
This strategic coordination mechanism will allow both partners to tackle challenges at the nexus of trade, trusted technology and security, and deepen cooperation in these fields between the EU and India.
A Free Trade Agreement (FTA) being brokered between India and the EU is gaining traction with three rounds of negotiations.
There is a particularly good progress on the India-EU Connectivity Partnership, with India and the EU planning to undertake connectivity projects in third countries through risk-mitigation measures that can attract private sector participation. This would involve exploring ways to combine their capabilities in Indian subcontinent, East Asia, Central Asia and Africa and possibly in some regions closer to Europe towards finding the best model of supporting private investment in large scale connectivity projects.
The partnership could look at EU financing for projects in India and Indian subcontinent following the template of the South Asia Sub-regional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) programme which brings together Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal and Sri Lanka.
As part of this framework and if agreed upon, the partnership could also see the European Investment Bank join the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF). “There is political convergence between India and the EU on connectivity including at the leaders’ level, reflecting the political will to work together on many levels,” according to Sandeep Chakravorty, Joint Secretary (Europe West Division), Ministry of External Affairs.
That consensus serves as a strong foundation as PM Modi heads to Germany and Denmark with an eye on intensified cooperation in development partnership, green initiatives, trade and investment linkages. apart from the overall strategic partnership.
As the first port of call, Germany is important given its presidency of G7 and Modi’s first meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz since his assuming office last December.
Chancellor Scholz was also the first foreign leader Prime Minister Modi called in 2022, creating the right vibes for strengthening the existing bilateral ties as India and Germany sit down for the sixth round of intergovernmental consultation mechanism on Monday to review and assess the cooperation between the two countries.
Latest Commerce Ministry data shows exports to Germany grew by 21.1 per cent respectively over April 2020-March 2021 and there has been sustained growth in bilateral investments with Germany investing over $13.19 bn in India between 2000 and 2021 in areas such as transportation, electrical equipment, metallurgical industries, services sector (particularly insurance), chemicals, construction activity, trading and automobiles. Over 1,600 Indo-German collaborations and 600 joint ventures are represented in the Indian marketplace, according to industry sources.
India and the Germany can look at advancing the agenda and trade amidst searching for potential new areas in the plenary session which will be chaired by the two leaders. At the fifth round of the IGC held in India in October-November 2019, India and Germany confirmed the importance of a balanced FTA between India and the EU and agreed to deepen efforts to restart negotiations between the EU and India on the bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement. India would look at reiteration of this and support towards bringing to a fruition the India-EU FTA.
The highlight of the visits are also Prime Minister Modi’s interactions with industry heads and top executives in Germany and Denmark.
There is already a large and substantial presence of the business companies, both from Germany and from the Nordic countries in India, Kwatra told Swarajya. “Likewise, the Indian industry also interfaces very closely, very intensely across the entire range of sectors, whether it's manufacturing, whether it is the services area, whether it is the area of co design, co-development of products, solutions, platform-based app solutions and digital innovation. All these in some form or another would naturally figure in the agenda of discussions between the two leaders and the CEOs,” he added.
Prime Minister Modi and Chancellor Scholz would interact with the top CEOs of both the countries.
Denmark, the second leg of Prime Minister Modi’s visit and also his first to the country assumes importance for the 2nd India-Nordic summit with the Prime Ministers of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Sweden, and Norway.
There is a strong substance to build on the ongoing cooperation in water management, circular economy, shipping and the smart cities but for India, it will be an opportunity to shape new elements of partnership in skill development, shipping, agri technology and mobility.
The Nordic summit will provide an opportunity to take forward the agenda in these clusters forward.
France, whose President Macron has just won a second term, in an important continuation of the New Delhi-Paris ties, is a key partner of India and Europe and also holds the EU presidency currently.
The India-France friendship and strategic partnership has seen a great momentum and Prime Minister Modi’s visit to France will provide an opportunity to carry forward the high level engagement between the two countries, post the French presidential elections.
Clean energy environment, people to people ties, space, digital, manufacturing in high end sectors, etc are the likely touch points in the extensive talks expected between Prime Minister and President Macron.
Nivedita Mukherjee is a senior journalist covering economy, business, and trade.
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