The European Union and India have agreed to increase naval cooperation and security consultations amid growing tensions between China and its maritime neighbors across Asia.
A joint statement issued after a day-long virtual summit on Wednesday underlined the need to preserve safety and stability in the Indian Ocean.
India and the bloc of 27 nations also indicated that stalled talks on a free trade agreement would resume after the online meeting between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Charles Michel, president of the European Council and Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission.
Modi also updated EU leaders about the current situation along the country’s border areas, India’s foreign ministry said in a media briefing.
The India-EU summit is the second prominent virtual meeting being helmed by Modi amid the face-off with Beijing, which escalated sharply in June killing 20 Indian soldiers and an unknown number of Chinese troops. New Delhi held talks with Australia in May and has sought to strengthen ties with other democracies amid regional tensions between Asian nations and an increasingly assertive China.
Tensions between the EU and Beijing have also been simmering, with allegations that China spread disinformation about the coronavirus and frustration over Beijing’s curbs on foreign investors featuring prominently in talks between the two last month. Concerns over access to medicines, produced in China and India have also prompted plans to diversify EU supply chains, the group’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said ahead of the summit.
India and the EU have also agreed to converge their regulatory frameworks to ensure personal and data privacy and to work together on 5G technology, solar and nuclear energy.
Trade talks between the two sides have been stuck since 2013. While India has sought more access for its services industry along with other demands, EU officials in earlier press briefings have cited protectionism, high import duties and lack of investment protection among reasons for the lack of progress.
The EU accounted for $91 billion or 11% of India’s total trade in 2019, on par with the US and ahead of China, according to the European Commission.