Heading into the EU-India Summit, both sides are guided by a realisation that they need to rethink, reshape and diversify their political, economic and technological dependencies.
Technology and climate are EU priorities and leaders know they cannot achieve them alone. India, meanwhile, needs to forge new relationships in a post-Brexit EU to advance its own policy aims and better capitalise on an underutilised partnership with the EU.
Spurred by the pandemic, US-China trade war and US unpredictability, Europe is particularly cognizant of the fragility of supply chains, the risks that come with an overreliance on China, and the need to strengthen the global community of democracies.
Both India and the EU require strong domestic technological bases to remain competitive. Options for bolstering these industries include talent exchanges, the facilitation of work permits for students and professionals, rules on reciprocal market access for businesses, joint innovation initiatives, and funding for joint research projects.
Considering China’s ascendancy, the EU and India now share a stronger political interest in shaping global norms and standards in the technological domain, including rules on information flows and the ethical application of technologies like facial recognition. The global dividing lines are epitomised especially by discussions on 5G and associated lock-ins on infrastructure, standards, security protocols, and the potential weaponisation of technological interdependence.
To this end, the EU and India should seek out ways to converge technological safety protocols, privacy provisions, and investment screening approaches. The recognition of data protection equivalency would also enable data transfers that are necessary for the development of digital industries. It would also be prudent to jointly promote democratic principles through institutions like the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence and the D-10 (G-7 countries plus Australia, South Korea, and India, and other like-minded democracies) alliance, and by incentivising supply chains that abide by shared standards.
To ameliorate supply chain concerns, the partnership should further develop the ICT and manufacturing sector in India, enhance capacities for sourcing components and supporting technology, including for the EU’s two 5G frontrunners, strengthen governmental and industrial collaboration to advance and roll-out technologies, and adjust EU-India trade policy to facilitate digital trade.
In the area of climate, the Paris Agreement and EU-India Clean Energy and Climate Partnership provide a foundation to build on. The EU-India agenda here should include the promotion and de-risking of investment in renewable energy and green technology, the channelling of post-COVID-19 stimulus into green infrastructure, joint research and development, and business-to-business cooperation to contribute to the green transition.
The EU and India can further facilitate the creation of institutions that attract financing to sustainable growth, modelled, for example, on the Green Growth Equity Fund created by the UK and India or private financial initiatives like Tata CleanTech Capital Limited.
The article was originally published on the Observer Research Foundation website on 24 July 2020.