Giulia Tercovich 1 450x300 AIFUQm

Expert: Mutual interest in deepening India-EU relations

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The EU and India will have a window of opportunity this winter, before the elections in both places next year, to hold concrete discussions on how to advance their relationship, which has an important geopolitical dimension, a geopolitics expert told EURACTIV in an interview.

Giulia Tercovich, assistant director at the Centre for Security, Diplomacy & Strategy (CSDS), BSoG-VUB, spoke to EURACTIV on Thursday (7 September), just ahead of the G20 summit hosted by India, starting on Saturday.

Several important meetings with the participation of India have taken place recently, starting with the BRICS summit in South Africa (22-24 August), on to the ASEAN summit in Indonesia (5-7 September), leading to the 9-10 September G20 summit in New Delhi.

Asked about the BRICS summit, where six more countries were invited to join, Tercovich described the format as a “politically diverse” group in which India played an important role that might benefit the West.

The analyst argued that the BRICS was unable to agree on several issues, starting with the war in Ukraine to their own enlargement. She said it was necessary to understand the “different dynamics” impacting the group, specifically Russia, China, and India.

On 24 August, BRICS announced that it would formally accept six new members at the start of 2024: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Ethiopia, Egypt, Argentina, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), while South Africa said 40 more countries expressed interest in joining.

China, in particular, and also Russia, Tercovich said, were pushing for a bigger enlargement, while India has had a more conservative approach, mainly because it did not want Beijing to achieve its objectives.

India is worried about China and Russia getting increasingly closer, the analyst said, which she said plays into the hands of the West and pushes New Delhi further away from Moscow.

She said she expected a similar face-off at the G20 meeting, in which India would seek to “play it safe” on the communiqu? on Ukraine without attributing responsibilities, while Russia and China would push in another direction.

“Some say there will be no communiqu?,” she said, also alluding to the absence of the Chinese president from the meeting, where the country is represented by Prime Minister Li Qiang.

“If there will be, that would be a big achievement for Modi,” she added.

Asked if India could become a mediator in the Ukraine war, she said that, for the moment, she saw no chance for any country to be a mediator, mainly because Russia shows no interest in ending the conflict.

Tercovich argued that following Modi’s US visit, he was getting a lot of visibility under Washington’s perspective, and this was partly why President Joe Biden would attend the G20 summit.

At the same time, she said, the EU was also trying to engage more and more with India, but there were still a lot of question marks, first of all about India’s relationship with Russia.

Asked if the EU considered Modi more authoritarian than his predecessors, she said even if that was the case, in bilateral meetings, the EU kept praising India as “the biggest democracy in the world”.

The mood in the EU, Tercovich said, was that in the current geopolitical situation “we need to engage with India”.

“The EU is quite keen to engage, even though they are quite realistic in terms of what can be achieved, that things take time”, she said.

The EU and India formally relaunched negotiations on a free trade agreement to complete talks by the end of 2023.

Asked about the prospects for an FTA, she said the EU was “still recovering” from previous negative experiences but was “keen to advance” with India.

Before any advancement, the EU and India needed to establish “some level of trust and some methods to advance on things”.

The next phase of this dialogue might build on the EU-India Trade and Technology Council held in June in Brussels, with Modi’s participation, Tercovich said, warning that willingness to cooperate was there, but the timeframe would depend “on multiple factors”.

India will hold general elections between April and May next year, and much of Modi’s international activity can be interpreted as designed to impact his electorate, Tercovich said.

The EU is holding European elections next June.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic/ Alice Taylor]



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