At a one-day EU-India summit in France’s southern port of Marseille, French President Nicolas Sarkozy met Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, to discuss trade, the global financial crisis, climate change and terrorism, as well as civilian nuclear research and development.
Indian PM Singh, French President Sarkozy and EU Commission Chief Barroso in Marseille on 29. Sept. 2008
French President Sarkozy, Indian Prime Minister Singh and EU Commission chief Barroso and EU High Representative Javier Solana emerged for a press conference after almost two hours behind closed doors in the bustling port of Marseille on France’s southern coast.
"We reviewed the joint action plan adopted in 2005 and agreed to add several new areas of cooperation. These include vocational training, post-harvest technologies, exploitation of solar energy in India and civil nuclear research and development, including fusion energy," Prime Minister Singh said.
President Sarkozy and Prime Minister Singh called on world leaders to hold emergency talks to discuss the global financial crisis and “put in place the foundations of a new international financial system.” Sarkozy added that India was in danger of being swept up in the whirlwind, which has already had devastating consequences on the US and European economies; saying India was clearly “conscious of this risk”.
Notwithstanding the current financial crisis, India’s growing economy has made it a much-sought after trading partner. It has transformed from a country in urgent need of development aid to an equal partner on a political and economic level.
Nuclear energy worth 30 billion euros
President Sarkozy told French media at the weekend that the trade in nuclear energy alone could be worth almost 30 billion euros over the next 15 years. France and India are expected to sign an agreement on civil nuclear power in Paris on Tuesday.
This follows India’s recent controversial civilian nuclear agreement with the United States, which effectively recognised the South Asian nation as a de facto nuclear power -- bringing to an end an over 30-year-old boycott that the international community had imposed after Delhi tested an atom bomb in 1974.
Salma Bawa from Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University said the deal marked a clear turning point: “The sign for international politics is that the US -- one of the most important countries in global politics -- has closed a very important agreement with India. In Europe, this will obviously have an impact as Europe will also see India under a new light -- not only as an emerging economy but as a country that is an equal in political terms too.”
Free-trade agreement by 2009
The EU and India first signed a strategic partnership agreement in 2004. Last year negotiations to draw up a free trade agreement began and on Monday Sarkozy and Singh announced they hoped to finalise a deal by 2009.
India is currently ninth in the EU’s list of important trading partners but both entities hope to change this. The EU wants to cultivate its ties with India, which is considered as a beacon of stability in a region, which includes the extremely volatile Pakistan and Afghanistan. The situation in both of these countries was also discussed in Marseille, as well as recent anti-Christian violence in India, and development aid.
The European Commission confirmed before the Marseille summit that it would give India almost 500 million euros to reduce poverty over the next five years -- just under half of the amount is expected to go on healthcare and primary education.
EU is India’s biggest trading partner
But the EU is not only an important donor of development aid for India. “The EU is India’s biggest trading partner and therefore very important for India,” said Salma Bawa but there is competition from closer to home.
“Since India formed its “Look East Policy,” the South East Asian ASEAN countries have become more important -- economic factors play a role but there are also close cultural links.”
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh travels to France’s capital Paris for bilateral talks with his French counterpart Francois Fillon and President Nicolas Sarkozy on Tuesday.