The Hindu – India, EU likely to resume talks

Federica Mogherini may discuss stalled trade pact; visit likely to open up ties with Italy

Kallol Bhattacherjee

New Delhi, 20 April 2017. The talks between India and the EU that were stalled in the backdrop of the Italian marines crisis are likely to kick-start during the April 21-23 visit of a high official of the European Union.

The Ministry of External Affairs announced that the High Representative of EU, Federica Mogherini, will hold discussions with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Friday.

Announcing the visit, Ms Mogherini said in her blog that she would hold talks with Ms Swaraj after arriving from China where she has co-chaired the EU-China Strategic Dialogue. “We will prepare for the 14th EU-India summit, to be held in New Delhi this year,” she said about her meeting in Delhi.

The visit of Ms Mogherini, a senior Italian politician now with the EU, is significant as she is known to have adopted a hard position on the Italian marines case which turned into a difficult legal and diplomatic issue between India and Italy.

Sources revealed that though Ms Mogherini is likely to discuss the stalled trade pact between India and EU, the visit is also likely to open up India-Italy ties.

“Senior politician Ivan Scalfarotto will be in Delhi during April 26-28 with a 200-strong business delegation. A high-level Indian delegation will be in Italy on May 10-12 for the joint economic commission meeting,” said a diplomatic source, confirming that the joint economic commission had not met during the past five years because of the marines issue.

Joint working groups

He also indicated that both sides had also revived joint working groups on defence, and science and technology. The joint working group on terrorism also met in January this year. The visit of Ms. Mogherini is likely to open up long pending issues in EU-India ties.

However, though bilateral India-Italy ties are expected to get a boost from her visit, India-EU ties would still have a long negotiation over the free trade agreement between both sides, reports suggest.

Market access

The main issues are over duties and market access but additional points of disagreement have reportedly emerged over new clauses that would not allow international companies to rush to international arbitration without completing cases in Indian legal system.

Following the cooling down of the marines issue, India had sent Ms. Swaraj to Rome last year where she had met her counterpart Paolo Gentiloni in the first high-level outreach since the marines crisis began in 2012.

Human Rights issues should also be discussed, both the right to manifest one’s religion or belief through the wearing of religious symbols in EU member states and the rights of religious minorities in India.
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