After diplomatic gains in the US, winning over the EU should be next on Modi's foreign policy agenda

There is one major fortress that Modi has been unable to breach in the 16 months since taking office: Europe, and more specifically, the EU.

FP Politics September 28, 2015 15:57:42 IST
After diplomatic gains in the US, winning over the EU should be next on Modi's foreign policy agenda

Having adding Silicon Valley to his growing list of ‘conquests’, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s energetic and proactive foreign policy continues to gain plaudits. However, there is one major fortress that he has been unable to breach in the 16 months since taking office: Europe, and more specifically, the European Union (EU).

The Economic Times reports that ‘scheduling issues’ have been blamed for the lack of any India-EU summit since Modi came to power. However, the last India-EU summit was held in February 2012 — a few days before the MV Enrica Lexie incident that resulted in the arrest of the marines.

After diplomatic gains in the US winning over the EU should be next on Modis foreign policy agenda

Representational image. Getty Images

The Economic Times reiterated a widely-held view that ties between India and the 28-country-bloc took a nosedive after Italian marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone were apprehended by Indian authorities in 2012. Unsurprisingly, former Italian foreign minister Federica Mogherini, who is currently the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, has been less than pleased with India’s handling of the marines’ trial.

While India and the EU may be on different pages diplomatically, the EU is reportedly India’s biggest trade partner with bilateral trade amounting to over $101 billion in 2013-14. And although a meeting to discuss the long-pending India-EU Free Trade Agreement, scheduled to take place in New Delhi around two months ago, was called off by India, the FTA is very much a part of conversations between India and the EU, says the report.

A possible revival of India-EU diplomatic relations could come as early as next week, in the form of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s forthcoming India visit that starts on 4 October. Getting the (arguably) most powerful and influential leader in the EU onside will go a long way in bringing India and the EU back to the negotiation’s table.

However, according to former Indian diplomat Vivek Katju, who spoke to The Economic Times, the onus for scheduling the next meeting is on the EU. According to him, ‘it is EU's turn to reach out to India to fix dates for the next summit specifically because of the offence they caused when India had probed six months back if a summit was possible’.

This sort of approach may not be the best if positive India-EU relations are the objective. One party will have to take the higher ground, and it is unlikely to be the EU — already grappling with the Ukraine crisis on one hand, and the immigrant crisis on the other.

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