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The EU-India partnership: time to go strategic?

16 October 2012
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The present volume is a direct outcome of a four-year process of close cooperation and friendship between the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA), a think tank of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, and the European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS), the sister institution at the EU level. In 2008, both institutions jointly launched the annual India-EU Forum on Effective Multilateralism, which has since then been organised alternately in Delhi and Brussels. This initiative has involved the active participation of some 200 ministers, ambassadors, high-level officials and parliamentarians as well as academics and experts from both sub-continents. The successive fora have facilitated an informal exchange of views on strategic issues in what might be described as a second-track diplomacy setting, and it is hoped that these discussions will pave the way towards policymakers reaching agreement at the highest level and in particular at the annual EU-India Summit.

The Forum has contributed to shaping the agenda between India and the EU and has helped deepen dialogue, with resulting reports widely disseminated among policymakers both in Delhi and Brussels. This volume, which starts with a consolidated report in the introductory chapter summarising the bilateral dialogue undertaken between the two parties during the last few years, represents the crystallisation of the initiative. It presents a selection of papers authored by Indian and European participants in the Forum as a forward-looking contribution to enhancing India-EU relations.

The EUISS-ICWA process is based on the assumption that a new paradigm needs to be explored in order to advance India-EU relations in the multilateral dimension of the Strategic Partnership, taking due account of the role of India as a regional and global actor as well as of the EU as a fully-fledged political actor. The predominant opinion among the organisers and experts in general is, however, that no substantive upgrading of India-EU relations has yet taken place.

Given that the potential of the Strategic Partnership is far from being fulfilled, a continuing discussion is needed on issues which should be explored as areas for future cooperation between India and the EU. The EU-India partnership cannot at the current point in time be defined as strategic despite being officially designated as such, hence the provocative title of this volume which does not reflect frustration but rather an aspiration to deepening and furthering cooperation between the two actors.