Capping 13 years of negotiations, India and the European Union on Tuesday sealed a civil nuclear cooperation agreement a day ahead of their virtual summit which is aimed at further broadbasing ties on a range of areas including trade, investment and defence, officials of the 27-nation bloc said.
The agreement provides for extensive cooperation in the civil nuclear energy sector including in research and development for peaceful uses of nuclear energy, they said.
In the summit, the two sides are also expected to kick off a process for effective cooperation between the Central Bureau of Investigation and Europol, unveil a five-year roadmap to further expand ties and are likely to launch separate dialogue on maritime security and for boosting trade and investment, the officials said.
The Indian delegation at the summit will be led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi while the European side will be headed by President of the European Council Charles Michel and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen.
The EU is a strategically important grouping for India. The EU as a whole was India's largest trading partner in 2018. India's bilateral trade with the EU in 2018-19 stood at $115.6 billion with exports valued at $57.17 billion and imports worth $58.42 billion.
The EU officials said an announcement on firming up of the civil nuclear cooperation agreement will be made during the summit on Wednesday.
They said both sides are expected to finalise an agreement between Europol and the CBI on having a working arrangement to deal with organised crime and terrorism. The Europol is the EU agency for law enforcement cooperation.
The officials said both sides are also expected to launch a maritime security dialogue as part of efforts to expand defence and security cooperation.
On the long-pending India-EU free trade agreement known as EU-India Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA), the officials said the current trade relationship between the two sides was below its potential and far less than what the bloc expects.
In the context of the stalled talks on the FTA, the officials talked about 'India's protectionist approach' on tariffs and reservations on opening up its services sector, adding New Delhi is also not showing interest in trade with sustainable development.
Asked whether the EU was looking at a limited trade pact with India, the officials said the bloc was not looking at such an option and that it was for a comprehensive trade agreement.
Launched in June 2007, negotiations for the proposed agreement have witnessed many hurdles as both sides have major differences on crucial issues.
Besides demanding significant duty cuts in automobiles, the EU wants tax reduction on wines, spirits and dairy products, and a strong intellectual property regime.
On the other hand, India is asking that it be granted data secure nation status by the EU. The country is among the nations not considered as data secure by the EU.
There has been a renewed interest in the BITA from both sides after India pulled out of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
Talking about the post-COVID-19 situation, the officials said India as well as other countries will have to resist the temptation of initiating protectionist measures to ensure economic recovery following the pandemic.
Asked about the Afghan peace process, the officials said the EU was in touch with India and other partners involved in Afghanistan, and hoped that the peace initiative gains momentum.
They said Pakistan too will have to contribute towards the Afghan peace process.
On cross-border terrorism from Pakistan and whether the issue will figure in Wednesday's talks, they said both India and Europe have been victims of the menace and the leaders are expected to reaffirm their position on dealing with the challenge.
The officials said the summit will be an opportunity to strengthen the EU-India strategic partnership, stressing the shared principles and values of democracy, freedom, rule of law, and respect for human rights by both sides.
They said the summit is aimed at delivering concrete benefits for people in the EU and India.
The summit will be an opportunity to strengthen the EU-India Strategic Partnership.
The leaders will discuss how to further develop their trade and investment relations and support sustainable growth and jobs on both sides, the officials said.
As the world is fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, the leaders will discuss global cooperation and solidarity to protect lives, to mitigate the socio-economic consequences and to strengthen preparedness and response capacities, they added.