The European Commission’s chief executive has offered India not just to increase sales of European military equipment and relaunch talks on a free trade deal but sought to strengthen tech tie-ups with the country.
EU Chief Ursula von der Leyen has already agreed with Prime minister Narendra Modi, to set up a new trade and technology council similar to an EU-US model, which could discuss digital privacy, regulation of technology companies, and social media platform supervision.
European Commission President who is on an official visit to India as part of Western efforts to encourage India to reduce its ties to Russia after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine follows a trip last week by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
“There are a whole host of Western leaders reaching out to India right now to see what alternatives we can provide,” the senior EU official said. “The key is that we want to bring forward this relationship, work on technology together and bring India into our camp, that’s the main message of our visit,” the official said.
India has so far not explicitly condemned the February 24 invasion by Russia, its biggest supplier of military hardware. The EU and India also look to relaunch free trade talks, which were frozen in 2013 over differences including tariff reductions and patent protection and have not moved forward significantly since an EU-India virtual summit in May 2021.
India, the world’s second-most populous country with nearly 1.4 billion people, is seen by the EU as a crucial ally to help manage China’s rise from a benign trading partner to a rival power with a growing military presence.
A 2020 study by the European Parliament put the benefits of a trade deal for the EU with India at up to 8.5 billion euros ($9.17 billion), although the estimate was made before Britain’s departure from the bloc.