India has taken several innovative steps during the CO VID-19 pandemic to strengthen its diplomatic ties with the rest of the world by forming more stable, progressive and proactive relationships with its diplomatic partners
Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, India has been reaffirming its commitment to strengthen its diplomatic relations. Following a series of high-level diplomatic engagements in the recent months, the 15th India-EU summit was successfully held on July 15, 2020, with the core objectives of promoting effective multilateralism, fighting the COVID-19 pandemic through international cooperation, facilitating trading and investment, Clean Energy and Climate Partnership, Research and Development in 5G and artificial intelligence, Global peace and security, promoting people-to-people exchanges and EU-India Strategic Partnership: a Roadmap to 2025. India has also emerged as a stable and reliable partner for its neighbours through regional partnerships. The government, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the helm has showcased its commitment towards maintaining mutually beneficial regional relationships under its ‘Neighbourhood First’ and ‘Act East’ policy.
The European Union is a collective and strong association that was formed in Europe and has 27 member states with an idea to promote inclusion, tolerance, justice, solidarity and non- discrimination throughout the region. The withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU on 31 January 2020 has had a major impact on the multi-national assemblage that has resulted in a restructuring of its global partnerships. With India emerging as one of the most promising investment destinations in Asia, offering both stability and immense growth potential, the India-EU summit offered a perfect opportunity for strengthening the country’s existing relations with the European Union.
PM Modi led the Indian delegation for the EU Summit while the President of the European Council, Charles Michel and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, represented the European side. The leaders decided to work together for the larger benefit of the people by promoting the shared values of democracy, freedom, rule of law, and respect for human rights, aiming at delivering concrete benefits for the people in India and the EU. With multilateralism becoming a favourable facet of diplomatic engagements, the two sides decided to implement a rules-based order with the UN and WTO at its centre. In view of the financial havoc wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic, the summit focused on measures to help nations recover their economic stability and also deliberated on how to encourage investment in healthcare. A discussion was also held for adopting a robust strategy to combat climate change and environmental degradation across the world and to incorporate more sustainable practices.
The two sides also discussed holistic development and human- centric digitalisation to develop inclusive economies and societies. As countries around the world are looking to revive economies, discussions focussed on opening new business opportunities were held. In the light of the Common Agenda on Migration and Mobility (CAMM), established at the 13th India-EU summit in Brussels, Belgium (2016), the two sides welcomed active people-to-people exchanges including those among students, researchers, professionals, business persons and tourists. The two sides also reaffirmed their commitment towards comprehensive connectivity partnership. A highlight of the summit was the adoption of the ‘India-EU Strategic Partnership: a Roadmap to 2025’ to guide mutually- beneficial cooperation between India and the EU for the next five years. The Indian side also welcomed the ongoing European investments in the country and welcomed the planned upcoming investments of Euro 500 million in Pune and Bhopal Metro Rail projects. The two sides signed an agreement for the R&D of nuclear power application project in the form of the Euratom- India Agreement in addition to a joint declaration on Resource Efficiency andCircular Economy. The two sides also expressed their appreciation of the upcoming renewal of the India-EU Science and Technology Agreement for another five years
India has continued to focus on economic development within the country and in its immediate neighbourhood. Mansukh Mandaviya, the Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Ministry of Shipping and Minister of State for Chemical & Fertilizers flagged-off the first trial run of a container ship from Kolkata to Agartala through Chattogram port in Bangladesh on July 16, as the neighbouring country allowed the use of its Chattogram and Mongla Ports for movement of goods to and from India through its territory. The opening up of this new trade route will enable the further development of Indian trade and developmental partnerships with Bangladesh. The trial run of the ship was a great initiative to strengthen synergetic connectivity links in the neighbourhood.
The consignment first reached Chattogram port and was transported to Agartala via a fleet of Bangladeshi trucks. This move was an outcome of the signing and exchange of a Standard Operating Procedure by India and Bangladesh in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina, during the latter’s visit to India in October 2019. The use of these ports will reduce the transportation time of Indian goods and result in enhanced financial benefit for both nations. The development of this route also shines a favorable light on India’s Sagarmala initiative, a National Perspective Plan (NPP) for the comprehensive development of India’s 7,500 km coastline and maritime sector.
Another positive addition to India’s cross-border trade with Bangladesh was the landmark achievement of establishing a fully-functioning freight- rail corridor between the two nations. An Indian cargo train with FMCG goods and other supplies arrived in Bangladesh on its maiden trip on July 25. The corridor will connect major terminals in India with Bangladesh, giving a much-awaited boost to trade and bilateral development. India, with its strong bilateral ties throughout the countries in the Southeast Asian region, is ready to improve significantly on the economic front and boost foreign investments in sectors that positively impact long- standing manufacturing capabilities under the Aatmanirbhar Bharat initiative. As the world gradually emerges from the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, India has begun work on a plan to boost Indian exports. The plan focusses on reducing import dependence and becoming self-sufficient or ‘atmanirbhar’. A systematic approach is being taken to build India’s stake in global value chains and for the same, it’s crucial to make our bilateral, economic and political relations with partner countries even stronger.