India, EU set for 'strategic partnership'

India, EU set for 'strategic partnership'

Friday, 05 November 2004, 08:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI: The close relationship between India and the European Union will assume a new dimension with the two sides all set to enter into a strategic partnership at their 5th summit in The Hague, the Netherlands, on Monday.

India will be only the sixth nation to have such a special relationship with the EU, after the US, Canada, Russia, Japan and China.

The summit talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the EU, represented by Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenenda in his capacity as the current president of the European Council, will endorse the EU proposal to elevate bilateral ties to a strategic partnership.

Manmohan Singh leaves for The Hague on Sunday to take part in the summit. During the visit to the city, which houses the International Court of Justice, he will also address a roundtable of European and Indian CEOs and call on Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands.

External Affairs Minister K. Natwar Singh and Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath will be in the prime minister's entourage.

The strategic partnership will be the basis for a "more broader and intensive exchange of views" on the entire gamut of bilateral relations, including economic, social and political aspects, Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran said.

"When we talk about strategic partnership, we are talking about the entire gamut of our relations - trade, investment and other potentials," he said.

Describing the move as a "landmark in India-EU relations, Saran said: "The proposal from EU has to be seen as a very clear endorsement of India as a regional and global leader emerging increasingly on equal terms with other world powers.

"The strategic partnership marks the culmination of the growing cooperation between India and EU that started many years ago and will enhance the frequency and intensity of the relations between the two sides," Saran said while briefing reporters about the prime minister's visit.

Saran said the proposal for strategic partnership proposal would be spelt out in an Action Plan in the months following the summit for endorsement by the sixth summit.

He said UN reforms, strengthening multipolar institutions and the situations in Afghanistan, Iraq, South Asia and Middle East would figure in the talks between the prime minister and the EU leaders.

The fact that the prime minister will be holding talks with the outgoing president of the European Council, Romano Prodi, and his team and not the incoming team led by Jose Manual Barroso does not in any way reduces the importance of the summit, Saran said.

"We are talking to an institution and not individual," he said.

He said the expansion of the EU to a 25-nation organisation with the induction of 10 new members offered both opportunities and challenges for India.

While the EU emerges as one of the largest markets for India with more than 450 million people, its further diversification in economic and social terms would pose their own challenges in dealing with the entity.

Saran downplayed comments by a team of European parliamentarians, describing Jammu and Kashmir as a "disputed region," following a visit to the state in June.

"The EU is a very diversified entity. It has various shades of opinion," he said.

"When we are talking about a strategic partnership we are looking at an equal partnership. We are not looking at a partnership that is intrusive on one side and passive on the other."

Source: IANS
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