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’India and the EU are both committed to universal values’

Times of India

’India and the EU are both committed to universal values’

25 June 2010

The European Union high representative for foreign affairs and security policy and vice-president of the European Commission, Catherine Ashton, is currently visiting India to enhance Indo-EU ties. Ashish Ray asked her a few questions:

Is your visit linked to the proposed FTA between the EU and India? Are you going to visit any other country on the same tour?

I will meet (foreign) minister [S M] Krishna to discuss EU-India bilateral relations and where we can collaborate more on global issues, from counterterrorism and security to peacekeeping missions and counter-piracy, where the EU and India are working together in the Gulf of Aden. We will also discuss the future Free Trade Agreement between India and the EU. I am not going to visit any other country on this trip; i want to dedicate a full three days to my Indian counterparts.

It is said the EU and India focus more on each other’s flaws than on establishing a partnership. If so, how can this be addressed?

We have had some issues on trade. Even if i believe they were sometimes exaggerated i take them very seriously: first, because in the conduct of our external relations with a country like India we have to address all problems systematically. Second, because i take these problems as a sign of the vast potential which exists in our bilateral trade and economic relations. We share with the government of India the will and determination to conclude the negotiations on a broad-based agreement on trade and investment. This will be very good news for us all.

The EU attention to human rights, child labour and non-trade aspects of free trade causes tension between Brussels and New Delhi. How can the EU handle India’s sensitivities in these areas?
India and the EU are both committed to universal values such as respect for human rights and the rule of law. We have common responsibilities in shaping the global agenda as regards climate change or the economic and financial situation. We share the same objectives of expanding our bilateral relations for the mutual benefit of our people. This is why over the years we have managed to build a solid and stable relationship.

What are the EU’s views on Kashmir?
The EU fully supports the ongoing dialogue between the different parties involved. Ultimately it is for Pakistan and India to agree on the terms of their dialogue. The reassurances given by Prime Minister [Manmohan] Singh during his recent visit to Jammu and Kashmir, and the promise to talk to any political group that renounces violence in order to produce a lasting peace, are welcome in this context.

What is the EU’s stance on India’s nuclear status?
The EU is a strong supporter of the nuclear non-proliferation regime based on multilateral treaties. The EU is in favour of the universality of the NPT as well as of the treaty banning nuclear tests. We are also convinced that it is time now to start negotiations on a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons. We are of the opinion that India, as a responsible member of the international community, should find its natural place within the multilateral treaty system and the EU would like to cooperate with India in this context. As to the civilian nuclear programme, the EU and some of our EU members are already cooperating with India.