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EU, India agree to deepen tech ties amid Ukraine conflict

April 25, 2022

EU chief Ursula von der Leyen met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for talks in New Delhi. Climate and trade security — as well as the conflict in Ukraine — dominated the agenda.

Ursula von der Leyen shakes hand with Narendra Modi in Delhi
EU and India agreed to deepen cooperation on trade, climate and digital technologyImage: REUTERS

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Monday met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the capital city, New Delhi.

The two leaders announced an agreement, the "EU-India Trade and Technology Council," to work together on technology and security matters.

What does the deal involve?

The technical agreement is meant to allow both partners to "tackle challenges at the nexus of trade, trusted technology and security, and thus deepen cooperation in these fields between the EU and India," according to a joint statement.

This will be the first such mechanism for India, and the second for the EU. The bloc has so far only set up a similar agreement with the United States.

Ursula von der Leyen added that their respective teams would soon begin negotiating on free trade agreements.

A spokesperson for India's Foreign Ministry said the two sides agreed to "deepen cooperation in areas of trade, climate, digital technology and people-to-people ties."

Ukraine conflict looms over talks

Although von der Leyen and Modi did not release a statement concerning Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the conflict hung heavy over the talks.

Ursula von der Leyen said in her press conference with Modi that both countries were "vibrant democracies" and that the 60-year old partnership between Brussels and New Delhi was more important than ever today.

She added that in spite of finding common ground as "strong supporters of the international-rules based order," the countries were "facing a challenging political landscape" in a veiled reference to the war in Ukraine.

Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaisahankar said he "exchanged views on the economic and political implications of the Ukraine conflict" during his discussion with the EU chief, Reuters news agency reported.

New Delhi has not officially condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In an interview over the weekend, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told Bloomberg News that India wants to be "friends with the European Union" and the Western world, but not as a "weak friend that needs desperate help here and there."

Russia has traditionally been India's top arms supplier.

Despite a growing chorus of Western leaders calling on New Delhi to reduce ties with Russia, India has continued to hold talks with Russian officials.

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European foreign ministers in India

Along with the EU chief, the foreign ministers of several other European countries — Norway, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, and Slovenia — are also in India.

The foreign ministers are scheduled to participate at a geopolitical dialogue organized by India's Foreign Ministry, according to the official website for the event.

Ursula von der Leyen is the chief guest at the event that kicks off later on Monday.

Indian Foreign Minister Jaishankar was also present during the joint press conference between von der Leyen and Modi. 

First India visit as EU chief

The European Commission chief landed in New Delhi on Sunday for a two-day visit, which is also her first visit to India in her position.

She held talks with Indian climate activists on Sunday, addressing Indian and European Union's shared ambition to address climate change by cutting harmful emissions and increasing the use of renewable sources of energy.

She is also set to meet other political and business representatives in India.

The EU is India's third-largest trading partner, but past attempts to secure a free trade deal have stalled. Von der Leyen's visit also follows a visit by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who also met with Modi. The two announced plans to increase defense and business cooperation — a key goal of the UK following its exit from the EU.

Edited by: Rebecca Staudenmaier

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Roshni Majumdar Roshni is a writer at DW's online breaking news desk and covers stories from around the world.@RoshniMaj