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What India's Modi hopes to achieve in Brussels

PM Modi is set to meet EU officials in Brussels, seeking to resolve a four-year diplomatic feud with Italy and discuss trade issues. Analyst Rajendra Jain talks to DW about India's expectations from the summit.

DW: The India-EU summit is taking place in Brussels after a gap of four years. Is it a revival of engagement between the two parties?

Rajendra K. Jain: India and the European Union have always been engaged. The delay in holding the summit was due to the fact that in 2013, then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wanted some concrete results to come out of a summit in India regarding a free trade agreement. After that, India held general elections, and the summit was once again delayed.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was keen to meet EU officials last year, but the meeting could not take place because of the Italian marine issue. So the upcoming summit will hopefully help bring the two sides back on track.

As you said, the trial of an Italian marine in India affected the India-EU ties. Is the situation better now?

Indien Rajendra K. Jain, Jawaharlal Nehru University

Rajendra K. Jain: 'There have been some differences, but they can be overcome'

The relation between India and the EU is primarily a trade and economic partnership, which has gradually transformed into strategic ties over a decade. The economic relation has been intact, albeit there has been a decline in trade ties due to a financial crisis and the contraction in world trade overall.

India has strong relations with many EU member states, and PM Modi has been meeting quite a few of their leaders. What Prime Minister Modi is seeking now is a review of his "Make in India" program. India is looking to Europe to help facilitate and accelerate its development and modernization. And while there has been progress on this front with a number of EU member states, it is yet to be seen what additional value the EU can bring to the dynamics as a bloc.

There are already indications as to how India can benefit from the EU's best practices in order to revive and energize key "Make in India" projects.

Solving the Italian marine issue will be on top of the agenda during EU-India summit. Do you think the issue will be resolved during Modi's visit?

I don't think the Italian soldier issue will be on top of the EU agenda. Initially, the issue was being dealt with by the Indian Supreme Court, but now it has been transferred to a tribunal in Hamburg.

We also have to keep in mind that the EU has been critical of Federica Mogherini, an Italian politician and the current High Representative of the EU for foreign affairs and security policy, for holding the entire EU-India relations hostage because of the marine conflict. She declined to hold the summit last year ignoring the recommendation by the president of the European Commission. Subsequently, there was pressure on her that the talks could not be further delayed.

India and the EU also have disagreements on free trade issues. Can the deadlock be removed during this summit?

There have been some differences, but they can be overcome. Already, the EU and India have zero tariff duties, so the EU is making major inroads into the Indian market. What New Delhi is looking forward to is that something concrete emerges from the free trade agreement, which could open opportunities for Indian software companies. India also wants its software engineers to work in the EU markets.

There are "red lines" on both sides, but the EU and India are not looking for a perfect agreement. If there is the political will, some kind of a deal will be finalized soon.

After the summit, PM Modi will be travelling to Washington to attend a nuclear conference. After the terrorist attacks in Brussels, nuclear safety has become a bigger issue. Some analysts say that Pakistan's nuclear sites could also come under terrorist attacks. Could that also be a point of discussion between Modi and EU officials?

India has suffered tremendously due to foreign terrorism. India is very concerned about the safety of nuclear installations in Pakistan, but in this regard the US could be more effective than the EU. Hence, bilateral talks between India and the EU cannot contribute much to resolving this issue. But I think there will be sharing of information between Indian and EU representatives.

The interview was conducted by Mahesh Jha.

Professor Rajendra K. Jain is Director of the Europe Area Studies program and a professor of European Studies at the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.