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A deal with Europe

Print edition : Oct 07, 2005

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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with Tony Blair (centre) and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso at the European Union - India Summit in New Delhi on September 7.-V. SUDERSHAN

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with Tony Blair (centre) and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso at the European Union - India Summit in New Delhi on September 7.-V. SUDERSHAN

The visit of a European Union team led by British Prime Minister Tony Blair heralds a Joint Action Plan between India and the E.U. on terrorism, trade, space science and alternative energy.

THE top leadership of the European Union was in New Delhi in the second week of September to participate in the sixth E.U.-India summit. British Prime Minister Tony Blair led the high-level E.U. team. Britain currently holds the six-month rotating presidency of the E.U. He was accompanied by European Commission President Manuel Barroso and E.U. High Representative Javier Solana.

The E.U. and India have announced an ambitious action plan, which, among other things, aims to strengthen two way trade and investments. The other most important issue both countries intend to tackle together is that of terrorism. In fact, the British Premier spent a lot of his time with government officials and media talking about the dangers posed by terrorism to India and the E.U. Though many leading E.U. countries themselves do not subscribe to Blair's new radical prescriptions to eradicate terrorism, his formulations on the subject found a sympathetic audience in India.

Blair, the "travelling salesman" as he is called by sections of the British media, seems to have felt very much at home in India during his two-day visit. He was treated by the government and mainstream media like a world statesman.

The political Left was the only exception: it organised a demonstration in Delhi to protest against Britain's policies in Iraq. In the week prior to his visit to India Blair was in China, where he claimed a large part of the credit for resolving the trade triangle between the E.U. and China, dubbed the "bra wars".

On his return to London Blair described his visits to the two countries as a success. He said that he had won public backing from the leaders of India and China in his fight against terrorism. Many in the Muslim world think that Blair is attempting to "Islamise" the current global conflict.

At a press conference he addressed jointly with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi, Blair once again assiduously avoided delving into the root causes of terrorism. Instead, he repeated ad nauseam that terrorism was rooted in religious fanaticism. Blair is an unabashed supporter of the Zionist project and the closest European ally of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. He played a key role in spreading the weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) myth about Iraq, which was subsequently used by United States President George W. Bush to justify invasion.

Blair's current project seems to be to make the world a battlefield against terrorism. Important aspects of the debate on terrorism, including the legitimate right of armed resistance against foreign invasion, are being glossed over. Blair is well known for his "selective indignation" against terrorism. He told reporters that "this global terrorism we face in India, in Britain and around the world comes from a perversion of the true faith of Islam".

Manmohan Singh was fully concurred with his British counterpart on the issue of terrorism. Speaking to reporters in Udaipur, where the two leaders had gone for talks, he said that both sides "agreed that there can be no justification whatsoever for terrorism on any grounds - religious, political, ideological or any other". Both declared "zero tolerance" on terrorism. In the joint statement issued during Blair's visit, the E.U. and India agreed to boost cooperation on anti-terrorist measures and crack down on money laundering and other forms of terrorist financing.

Blair has hailed the joint statement as a "turning point" in the relations between India and the E.U. Blair will present a draft resolution to the United Nations General Assembly in September, that, if passed, will commit countries to act against those within their territory who incite terrorism, not just those who commit it. Blair and Manmohan Singh are among the world leaders attending the New York summit in the third week of September to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the U.N.Manmohan Singh also hailed "the very special relationship" India has with the United Kingdom.

Although the E.U. is India's biggest trading partner, the bulk of India's trade with the E.U. is with the U.K. Indian exports to the E.U. are growing by 20 per cent a year, with imports rising by 15 per cent. The E.U. has a small trade surplus with India. Britain is the third largest investor in India; the two countries exchange $10 billion worth of business annually.

The British Prime Minister said that the agreement on the Joint Action Plan for an India-E.U. Strategic Partnership was the "most important outcome" of his visit. He said that the plan provided a "road map for identifying pathways for future cooperation". It covers trade, security, climate change, and research and development in science and technology. Blair went out of his way to highlight India's growing influence on the international stage by saying that India's "active participation and engagement" is necessary to make progress on major issues such as terrorism, climate change and trade.

The Action Plan recognises that terrorism constitutes "the most serious threat to international peace and security". India and the E.U. have pledged to establish contacts between Indian and E.U. counter-terrorism coordinators. The two sides have spelt out their common belief in "the fundamental importance of multilateralism and in the essential role of the United Nations for maintaining international peace and security." They will establish an E.U.-India dialogue on global and regional security issues. Both sides have also pledged to "uphold human rights in a spirit of equality and mutual respect".

ON the first day of the E.U.-India summit, the Indian Prime Minster announced that the country's domestic carrier Indian Airlines would purchase 43 planes from the European manufacturer Airbus Industrie. The deal is worth around $2.2 billion. The E.U. has been displeased by the Indian government's decision to contract Boeing, the American company that is the main rival of Airbus, for the purchase of planes for the national carrier Air-India.

The Indian government has now managed to keep both Washington and Brussels (the E.U. headquarters) happy. Airbus Industrie has received more orders from private Indian carriers such as Indigo, which have together placed an order worth $6 billion. Blair said in New Delhi that the Airbus deal was "a welcome sign" of the fast-growing relationship between the E.U. and India. Manuel Barroso described the India as "very successful".

Another important decision taken during the Blair visit was "to conclude a framework agreement on India's participation in the Galileo Satellite Navigation System". The Galileo is competing with the United States Global Positioning System (GPS) and Russia's Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS) system.

Unlike the U.S. and Russian systems, which are under the strict control of military agencies, the Galileo programme will be controlled by civilians. It is scheduled to be working by 2008, by which time 30 satellites will, theoretically, be able to track even small moving objects like cars. The E.U. is confident that the Galileo programme will have three billion receivers worldwide and fetch revenues exceeding euro 275 billion a year by 2020. The other non-E.U. countries that are participating in the programme are China, Israel and Ukraine. Countries such as Brazil and Mexico have also indicated their desire to join the project.

There are, however, some hurdles to be cleared before India becomes a full partner in the Galileo project.

A number of the smaller E.U. member-states concerned about nuclear proliferation are looking for more guarantees from India as the satellite technology could be put to dual use. Since the E.U. operates by consensus, the views of these small states will have to be taken seriously by Brussels.

The Political Declaration on the India-E.U. Strategic Partnership document also outlines developing more efficient, cleaner and alternative energy chains. The E.U. will try to "secure India's membership in the ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) nuclear fusion project. However, India's hopes of joining ITER have received a temporary setback.

At an ITER Negotiations Meeting at Cardarache, France, on September 12, delegates representing China, the E.U., Japan, South Korea, Russia and the U.S. had an informal exchange with a delegation from India on the subject of New Delhi's participation in the project.

The ITER delegates have only agreed that "without any further commitment, an exploratory fact finding mission would visit India to follow up this exchange for future consideration by the ITER delegations".

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