Sinha In Brussels Covering Ground For Indo-EU Summit On Nov 29

Written by Malcolm Subhan | Brussels, Oct 29: | Updated: Oct 30 2003, 05:30am hrs
Pure coincidence is the most likely explanation. Indias foreign minister Yashwant Sinha noted that he was unaware that his Pakistani counterpart Khurshid Kasuri is due here next week, when he spoke to the press here on Tuesday. And India was not even mentioned by official Pakistani sources here when explaining the reason for the forthcoming visit to Brussels by their foreign minister.

Indias relations with the European Union (EU) are moving from strength to strength, the foreign minister pointed out. Our trade is flourishing and investment is a two-way street, with Indian companies investing in Europe.

Political relations between India and the 15-nation EU are also moving ahead at a brisk pace. Indeed, a key reason for Mr Yashwant Sinhas visit here is the India-EU political summit to be held in New Delhi on November 29. The summit will bring together the Indian and Italian prime ministers. Silvio Berlusconi, who holds the EUs rotating presidency, will be accompanied by president of the European Commission Romano Prodi, his colleague, commissioner for external relations Chris Patten, and the EUs foreign policy supremo, Javier Solana.

During his visit the foreign minister had a working dinner with Mr Javier Solana on Monday, and met with Mr Chris Patten on Tuesday. Both described the EUs relationship with India as a strategic relationship.

Commissioner Chris Patten had already welcomed Indias initiative aimed at improving relations with Pakistan. India was hopeful of receiving a positive, even robust, response from Pakistan, but there were no signs yet of a let-up in cross-border terrorism, Mr Yashwant Sinha told the press here.

The visit to Brussels next week by Pakistans foreign minister Khurshid Kasuri is aimed at taking advantage of the EUs warmer relationship with Pakistan, and at diversifying Islamabads external relations, currently focused on the US, according to informed sources here. During his visit, Mr Kasuri hopes to secure the early implementation of the co-operation agreement between Pakistan and the EU.

The agreement, similar to the 1994 agreement between the EU and India, was signed some years ago, but has yet to come into force, because of the EUs concerns over Pakistans human rights record. A delegation from the European Parliament, which was instrumental in holding up implementation of the agreement, left for Pakistan last week.

Mention India here, and comparisons with China inevitably follow. Mr Yashwant Sinha robustly defended Indias economic performance. China began its economic reform programme 20 years before we did, he told the press. But we have moved ahead faster. In 12 years India has achieved more than any other country, he noted, pointing out that Indian exports to China have doubled during the first six months of this year.

Both Mr Yashwant Sinha and Mr PK Singh, Indias ambassador to the EU, stressed the shared values that unite India and the EU. As ambassador Singh put it, Our relationship with the EU is a relationship between two huge democracies. We have a civil society dialogue with the EU that China cannot hope to have.

Indeed, the European Economic and Social Committee, which represents the EU on the India-EU Round Table, is currently setting up an Internet website aimed at bringing together Indian and European civil society. It will be the first such official initiative between the EU and any developing country.