More muscle needed in Indo-EU ties | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 04.10.2012
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More muscle needed in Indo-EU ties

As Europe takes steps to combat its long-lasting economic crisis, more needs to be done to enable a strong future for Indo-EU relations, analysts and academics say.

In the midst of the15-month long jamboree currently taking place in India to showcase the entire gamut of Indo-German partnership in various spheres such as politics, business, science and culture, German ambassador Michael Steiner looks and sounds sanguine.

The main focus of the celebrations, titled "Infinite Opportunities" is to celebrate 60 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Euro zone crisis and India-EU ties

Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel (CDU) wird am Dienstag (31.05.2011) in Neu Delhi vom indischen Premierminister Manmohan Singh im Gästehaus der Regierung Hyderabad House begrüßt. Kanzlerin Merkel trifft mit Bundesministern und Staatssekretären zu den ersten deutsch-indischen Regierungskonsultationen mit Amtskollegen aus Indien zusammen. Foto: Steffen Kugler dpa +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++

A free trade agreement between the EU and India has yet to be signed

"We are in a win-win situation with India. We want more traction with India and that is happening in many fields. My feeling is that we will overcome the debt crisis. After all, a stronger EU is also good for India," Steiner told DW.

His optimism is shared to a lesser extent by analysts who feel that India should leverage its expanding economic might for political clout.

"So far, most cooperation between India and member states of the EU has taken place on a bilateral rather than multilateral platform. This needs to change. India's partnership with the EU needs to be seen as a strategic need by both regions," argued C. Jayanti, an assistant professor at Apeejay Stya University.

India-EU FTA: a win-win situation

Talk of a free trade agreement (FTA) which has been on the cards for many years and which has also missed many deadlines has also been a major talking point.

It is uncertain whether it is the current European economic climate or policy paralysis in India which is affecting the deal.

"Germany may be India's largest trading partner in the EU, but Indian businessmen are not encouraged by the negative trends they see there now," Gulshan Sachdeva, an associate Professor at the Centre for European Studies, told DW.

"The crisis has dented Europe's image as an investment destination and in fact investments there have declined in the last couple of years," he said.

A Eurofighter Typhoon performs a display flight at the Farnborough Airshow 2012 in southern England July 10, 2012. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor (BRITAIN - Tags: TRANSPORT BUSINESS MILITARY)

Eurofighter lost in the bid for the Indian defense deal

According to Indian government statistics, India-EU trade currently stands at roughly 67 billion euros, whereas China-EU trade is worth as much as 423 billion euros.

Others feel that when the FTA becomes a reality it will be to the mutual benefit of both regions. India then, some believe, should leverage its economic might, as China often does.

"What's happening now is that the EU is courting the dragon - China - and wooing the elephant, which is us. This equation must change in some years," Assistant Professor of Diplomacy and Disarmament at the Centre for International Politics Happymon Jacob told DW.

Big ticket defense deal

Chinese Prime minister Wen Jiabao (R) welcomes Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (L) at the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on October 24, 2008. Photo: ERIC FEFERBERG /AFP/Getty Images

Sino-Indian trade exceeds Indo-EU trade

The fact that the 20-billion-dollar US Multi-Medium Combat Role Aircraft (MRCA) deal was awarded to France's Dassault Rafale also dealt a blow to the Eurofighter consortium which is spearheaded by Germany. But it has preferred not to make any noise about India's decision.

"In this big-ticket defence deal what was at stake was not money alone. It was nationalistic pride, the creation of more jobs and more importantly that the EU wanted to forge a deeper strategic relationship with India," defence analyst Josy Joseph told DW.

Looking ahead, analysts feel that Europe should pursue a kind of engagement with India that finds the right mix of realism to make the most of its comparative advantages.

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