On Monday, a senior official from the EU said, during European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s visit to India, she will seek to increase sales of European military equipment to India and relaunch talks of a free trade agreement.
Ursula von der Leyen’s visit to India is part of a Western effort to reduce India’s reliance on Russian defense exports. Just last week British Prime Minister Boris Johnson flew down to New Delhi to do the same.
“There are a whole host of Western leaders reaching out to India right now to see what alternatives we can provide,” said a senior EU official. “The key is that we want to bring forward this relationship, work on technology together and bring India into our camp, that’s the main message of our visit,” said the official.
Von der Leyen arrived in India on Sunday for a two-day official visit, which is her first as president of the European Commission.
India has maintained a carefully balanced neutral position vis-à-vis the Russian invasion of Ukraine aimed at denazifying the region and to demilitarize it.
Von der Leyen aims to agree with India’s premier, Narendra Modi, to set up a new trade and technology council similar to an EU-U.S. model, which could discuss digital privacy, regulation of technology companies and social media platform supervision, said the senior EU official.
Both sides are also likely agree to relaunch free trade talks, which have stalled since 2013 over differences including tariff reductions and patent protection.
For the EU, India, the world’s second-most populous democratic nation of around 1.4 billion people, is seen as a crucial ally to help manage China’s rise from a benign trading partner to a rival power with a growing military presence.
A 2020 study by the European Parliament put the benefits of a trade deal for the EU with India at up to $9.17 billion (8.5 billion euros); the study was made before Brexit.
($1 = 0.9264 euros)