EU Unveils Strategy For Ramping Up Ties With India

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European Union's Ambassador to India Tomasz Kozlowski released the strategy document on Wednesday

New Delhi:

The European Union Wednesday unveiled a 'strategy paper' outlining the broad contours to significantly scale up ties with India in a plethora of areas like investment, infrastructure, defence, security and counter-terrorism, and proposed a military-to-military cooperation in the Indian Ocean.

Releasing the document, the European Union's Ambassador to India Tomasz Kozlowski said it lays foundation to take the relationship to the next level, besides seeking to work together for a rules based international order and deal with pressing regional and global threats and challenges.

"The strategy illustrates a very important fact that India is on the top of our agenda in the field of external relations. We think that we are ready for a joint leap now," he told reporters.

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On the long-pending India-EU free trade agreement, Mr Kozlowski said the grouping is committed to negotiate a comprehensive, balanced and economically meaningful agreement on trade and investment, adding both sides are engaged on the issue.

As investment protection pacts between India and several EU member countries expired, he said the FTA should have a chapter on investment protection.

When asked about the contentious issue of data protection, Mr Kozlowski said it is a very sensitive matter for the EU and that three delegations from the bloc have apprised the Indian government as well as Indian industries about the EU's new data protection regulation.

"We are happy that India is working on its privacy laws. We are impressed by the Supreme Court's ruling recognising privacy as a fundamental right. India is now working on privacy law. The EU will provide our contribution to public consultation on it," he said.

The EU is known to have has some reservations over India's move to localise data.

The envoy said the EU was ready to explore "all options" for starting negotiations with India on data protection and related issues.

On maritime cooperation with India, he said, "we are proposing to the Indian side to establish military-to military cooperation."

Without giving details of the proposal, he, however, made it clear that it was not going to be a military alliance,

Referring to security cooperation, the document said the EU's security and defence policy is setting up mechanisms for joint development of defence capabilities within the bloc which over time will further enhance its operational capacity and open up opportunities for closer engagement with non-EU countries such as India.

Asked about the EU's position on grey listing of Pakistan by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), he did not give a direct reply, but said the EU favours putting certain countries under such restrictions.

FATF, the global financial watchdog had placed Pakistan in its grey list for failing to check terror financing in the country.

The strategy paper issued Wednesday replaces the last "communication" on India of 2004.

The document recognised that India has emerged as the fastest-growing large economy and has acquired an important geopolitical role.

The envoy said the the bloc aims to strengthen the EU-India Strategic Partnership by focusing on sustainable modernisation and on common responses to global and regional issues.

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