The European Union (EU) and India agreed on Monday to establish a trade and technology council to boost collaboration, as the EU’s president met with officials in New Delhi, which has seen a flurry of high-level visits since the start of the Ukraine conflict.
Following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is on a two-day visit to New Delhi as part of Western efforts to persuade New Delhi to cut ties with Russia, its primary arms supplier.
India has refrained from explicitly condemning Russia’s invasion, while calling for an immediate end to violence. Moscow calls its actions in Ukraine a “special military operation.”
The US is the only other country that has a technical agreement with the EU similar to the one signed on Monday with India.
“I think this relationship today is more important than ever,” von der Leyen said in her opening remarks during a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “We have a lot in common but we are also facing a challenging political landscape.”
She identified cooperation on security, climate change and trade as the main areas of focus.
“Both sides agreed that rapid changes in the geopolitical environment highlight the need for joint in-depth strategic engagement,” an EU-India joint statement said.
“The Trade and Technology Council will provide the political steer and the necessary structure to operationalize political decisions, coordinate technical work, and report to the political level to ensure implementation and follow-up in areas that are important for the sustainable progress of European and Indian economies.”
Von der Leyen’s visit comes days after British Prime Minister Boris met his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, and agreed to increase bilateral defense and business cooperation. Johnson was preceded by US officials and the foreign ministers of Russia and China.
The EU chief was expected to offer to increase sales of European military equipment to India and relaunch talks on a free trade deal, a senior EU official said before the talks began.
“They reviewed progress in the vibrant India-EU strategic partnership & agreed to deepen cooperation in areas of trade, climate, digital technology and people-to-people ties,” Indian Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Arindam Bagchi, said on Twitter.
Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said after meeting Von der Leyen that they “exchanged views on the economic and political implications of the Ukraine conflict.”
Like many European countries, India has continued to buy oil from Russia despite sanctions imposed on Moscow from the US and other developed countries.