|9 November 2004|
International - India & World
By Siddharth Varadarajan
THE HAGUE, NOV. 8. The partnership unveiled by India and the European Union envisages cooperation in a broad range of economic, political and cultural subjects and reflects the "strategic depth" in the relationship between the two sides, Indian and EU leaders said here on Monday.
The `strategic partnership' represents a "substantive upgrading" of the relationship, the Dutch Prime Minister, Jan Peter Balkenende, said at a joint press conference with the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh.
The Netherlands currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU. "India and the EU are increasingly involved in world affairs," he said.The areas of convergence concerned diverse subjects such as counter-terrorism, non-proliferation, pushing the Doha development agenda at the WTO and the Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Mr. Balkenende said that if one were to draw a line from Brussels to New Delhi, India and the EU "are two poles of stability with a lot of instability in the areas in between, from the western Balkans, the Middle East and Afghanistan."
The joint press statement released by India and the EU details the agenda to be taken up over the next year, when a concrete plan of action will be finalised at the summit between the two sides in New Delhi in 2005.
On the political front, this will involve institutionalised dialogue on disarmament and non-proliferation as well as issues such as peacekeeping, conflict prevention and post-conflict reconstruction. The joint statement notes that cooperation in combating terrorism "is a priority area for the action plan for a strategic partnership" but adds that the "fight against terrorism must be carried out in full respect of human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law."
India and the EU also pledged to "enhance collective action to fight the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction as well as the means of delivery... The response to proliferation challenges requires strengthened multilateral consultations and the pooling of all efforts and resources."
While stressing the role that "effective export control measures for dual use goods" can play in preventing proliferation, the joint statement said "such measures should not hamper international cooperation in materials, equipment and technology for peaceful purposes."
Though individual EU countries such as France and Germany have backed India's quest for a permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council, the EU as an institution does not have a common position. Thus the joint statement merely flagged the issue of U.N. reform but said both sides would look forward to the report of the U.N. Secretary General's high-level panel on the subject.
The India-EU statement also expressed common views on a number of key international issues. The joint statement welcomed Israel's decision to withdraw from Gaza provided it is not the prelude to renewed settlements in the West Bank and provided it is a step towards two-state solution in accordance with the UNSC resolutions and roadmap. The two sides said they "welcome the restoration of full sovereignty to Iraq... and underline our concern that the current campaign of terrorist violence is leading to significant loss of life, particularly among civilians. India and the EU welcomed the commitment of the Sri Lankan Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam to a peaceful solution to the conflict and called for the reopening of peace negotiations in Nepal.
The EU also said it welcomed the "positive evolution of the relationship between India and Pakistan."
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