Navigating a changing world
G.S.Paper II: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests; Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.
• The talks to negotiate the India-European Union trade pact, the Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA), did not progressed during the 14th India-EU Summit.
• It is a sign that both sides continue to recalibrate their bargaining power and understanding of their relative positions on the international stage.
• But there are some important positive outcomes of these interactions, which go beyond just trade.
• The very fact that the two sides are talking and working together in several areas is significant.
Challenges faced by the European Union:
• Much has changed for the EU since the last summit held in Brussels in 2016.
• The Brexit issue and the secessionist forces which questioned the very existence of the European Union.
• Several key elections, including in France and Germany is coming up.
• The rift between eastern and western European countries on what core EU values are and should be is being hotly debated.
American Withdrawal and Shift in Identity:
• The inaugration of Donald Trump as U.S. President has created a visible rift between the long standing partnership between the United States and the European Union.
• The consequent retreat of America from its leadership role in the West has provided a significant external stimulus to the EU’s identity shift.
World’s largest democracies:
• The EU leadership referred to India and the EU as being the “world’s largest democracies” – a statement usually made with regard to politically sovereign entities.
• This projection as one of the world’s largest democracies is more notable this time in light of the U.S.’s uncertain position on the international stage.
• Pro- EU leaders such as French President Emmanuel Macron have been pushing for a stronger union in Europe as Britain leaves the EU in this context.
Rule Based International Order:
• India and the EU reaffirmed their commitment to a “rules-based” international order and a “multipolar” world.
• This is significant in the context of the U.S. moving towards reneging on several international deals.
The Iranian Nuclear Deal:
• Mr. Trump has said he is going to “decertify” the nuclear deal with Iran — a deal that the EU is keen to uphold.
The Paris Accord:
• The Donald Trump administration has given notice of intent to withdraw from the Paris Accord as well.
Recognition of Multipolarity:
• The reference to multipolarity is recognition that there is more than just one chair at the top table, not just with the U.S.’s shifting position but also due to Russia and China’s ascent.
Joint Statement on Terrorism:
• The India-EU joint statement on terrorism this year called for “decisive and concerted actions” against Hafiz Saeed, Dawood Ibrahim, Lashkar-e-Taiba and other purveyors of terror.
• This will further bolster India’s efforts to call out Pakistan on the issue of sponsoring terror.
• The EU itself has been no stranger to terrorism these last few years and the two sides have agreed to enhance cooperation at multilateral and bilateral interactions.
The Debate on Foreign Investment:
• Among the reported causes for the failed talks is a disagreement on whether the protection of foreign investments will be part of the BTIA or dealt with in a stand-alone treaty.
• India wanted a greater ease of movement of temporary skilled workers to provide services in the EU and the EU wanting greater market access for its automobiles and its wines and spirits.
The Movement of Skilled Workers:
• India is right to strike a hard bargain as far as the temporary movement of skilled workers is concerned.
• The EU and other developed countries have been historically reluctant about moving forward on skilled workers.
The Rise of Protectionism and Populism in Europe:
• The issue has become more challenging with the rise of populism and protectionism in Europe.
• Wanting an open market for automobiles and liquor but unduly restricting the movement of natural persons seems to be a case of ‘have your cake and eat it too’ thinking.
• All too often, the movement of skilled workers from India to developed countries is made burdensome.
Barriers to overcome:
• There are barriers to overcome in terms of salary thresholds, recognition of qualifications, visa fees, social security and so forth.
Data Secure Certification:
• Another issue holding up the trade talks has been the EU not granting data secure certification to India — a condition that facilitates the cross-border transfer of personal data, key to a number of companies’ services, especially in the IT industry.
• India does not have a stand-alone data privacy law.
• The state recently went to great lengths to create a false dichotomy between development and privacy during the right to privacy hearings in the Supreme Court.
The Debate on Privacy:
• The Indian state unsuccessfully argued that privacy was an elitist concern recently.
• On the other hand, the EU is, commendably, at the forefront of protecting citizens’ rights as regards what happens to their data online.
• It would certainly be a shot in the arm for consumer rights and privacy standards in the digital age if India were to adopt and implement strict standards for handling data, an outcome desirable in itself.
The Leadership of India and the European Union:
• India and the EU should continue to welcome each other’s leadership roles in the world, primarily because of commonly shared values.
• The EU is concerned about China flooding global markets with inexpensive steel and its response to China’s Belt and Road Initiative has been lukewarm.
• The strength of China’s relationship with EU member states themselves is heterogeneous, with China trying to make inroads into Eastern and Central Europe through infrastructure investments.
Why should India and European Union Cement their bond:
• This makes it vital for India to cement its bonds with the EU further.
• It’s not just about trade. It is far from clear what presence the EU will have in a decade’s time as this is a matter that can only be settled internally by its constituents.
The Way Ahead: Opportunities for Partnership:
• But the sands are shifting; both in Europe and the world, and spaces and opportunities for leadership and partnership are opening up.
• It will certainly pay for both India and the EU to keep each other close as they feel their way around the emerging international order.