Towards a closer Partnership between Europe and India

Interview with H.E. Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, former Foreign Secretary of India

As Eurasia is the future, which opportunities do you see for India and Europe together?

We have of course a historical connection with Europe. I am here today at the European Business Summit and from the business perspective, the European Union is India’s largest trade partner. It is also the biggest investor in India. We are the European Union’s 9th largest trade partner. We have therefore a really substantial cooperation.

But we would like to find ways of expanding trade, growing investment, having more people to people relations, getting to know the institutions. Right now, a lot of changes are taking place in India. You have a lot of new infrastructure, you have smart cities coming up, you have new skills programs. So in a lot of these changes, I think technology and best practices are very useful. And Europe is a very good partner for that.

India today is coming close to a three trillion dollar economy. It will very soon, maybe in less than a decade be a five trillion dollar economy. That is a big shift. That means the middle class will grow. There will be new demands, new opportunities, new business opportunities. So when we look at all these changes, we think today there are a lot of new possibilities for economic partnership with Europe. My purpose of coming here was to increase the awareness about India. To make the people realize that today here is a country, a young country, where the economy is bigger than in France, bigger than in the UK, maybe in ten years bigger than in Germany. In a sense, it is like another China.

There will be a lot of new possibilities out here. We want people to look at this and ask themselves whether they should be doing more.

India is a very peaceful country and embodies for us a feeling of trust. All these years, India has been a very trustworthy country. What can we do in order to build further on this strong and longtime trust?

I thank you for what you said. I think one of the bonding elements between Europe and India is the fact that we are a democratic society. Right now we are in the middle of holding elections. It is the biggest exercise: 900 million people will be voting in the elections. It is a society with many faiths where many opinions are being tolerated, even welcomed. If you look, most Europeans are comfortable with the Indian society. And most Indians are comfortable with the way Europe is. In terms of what is important for any society: people like to preserve their traditions and culture.

They would like to increase their security in different fields: food security, energy security, etc. A lot of this is possible if different parts of the world work together. At the moment in India, too many people are depending on agriculture. What we like to do is to move people to more industrial jobs, to more services. Because the population is increasing, we also like the productivity to go up. And European companies and European governments have been very supportive of that. So we have many partnerships in different fields of agriculture and production which have been helpful in this perspective. So we really look forward to working with the European companies in that regard.

What is the message of India to Europe at this moment?

When I look at Diplomatic World Magazine, I can see that you have tried in many ways to explain to your readers the merits of cooperation and friendly relationships and I would like to do that for India as well. India is a modern economy and we would like the Europeans to think about India as a land of opportunities, business opportunities and tourism opportunities. We would like the Europeans to think about India as another valuebased democratic society in a different part of the world. Through a magazine as Diplomatic World, you pick up very naturally an understanding of other countries. And that is very good thing to do.

Barbara Dietrich and Maarten Vermeir