The anti-Russian front rolls out the red carpet for India

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will participate as a “special guest” at the upcoming summit of the seven richest countries (G7), which will take place from 26 to 28 June 2022 at Elmau Castle in the Bavarian Alps. At the same time, the European Union (EU) pledges to relaunch its economic relations with India. She wants to conclude a free trade agreement as soon as possible. During a European tour this week, the head of the Indian government was received with great fanfare by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin on Monday. He met his Danish, Icelandic, Finnish and Norwegian colleagues on Tuesday and Wednesday. He concluded his trip in Paris on Wednesday evening.

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Suffice it to say that in 2022 the seductive power of the great peninsula is increasing on the international stage, especially with western countries. “A first reason is politics,” said Gopalan Balachandran, professor of history and international politics at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID) in Geneva. His invitation to the G7 is part of the effort to get New Delhi on board against the Russian invasion of Ukraine. He recalled that India has traditionally had close ties and complicity with the United States and the EU, especially with regard to the “Chinese threat”.

Also read: India’s Dilemma, Between Russia and the West

The appeal of Russian black gold

In February, however, the Indian government abstained from a UN vote to condemn the aggression, much to Western countries’ dismay. He also took no position on a vote to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council. To top it off, when the US and EU imposed trade sanctions on Moscow, Indian state and private companies increased their purchases of Russian oil, taking advantage of a slashed price of $35 a barrel.

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But the motives of the western powers are also commercial. Speaking to his Indian guest in Berlin on Monday, Olaf Scholz reiterated the EU’s intention to deepen economic relations with the Asian giant by signing a free trade agreement. In March, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen paid a whirlwind visit to the Indian capital and raised the subject. Negotiations are already scheduled for mid-July in New Delhi.

Exchanges between the Twenty-Seven and the Asian giant have been increasing year after year. They reached 88.1 billion euros in 2021. European investments totaled 83 billion euros between 2001 and 2021. Nearly 4,500 companies from the Old Continent are present in Bombay, New Delhi and Chennai, providing 6 million direct and indirect jobs. “India is a central partner of Germany in Asia, in the areas of economy, defense and climate policy,” said Olaf Scholz, who also announced a EUR 10 billion aid by 2030 to boost the use of clean energy.

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For Gopalan Balachandran, the Indian government plans to multiply bilateral free trade agreements to develop its exports. “He has removed many hurdles that have held back foreign investors until now,” he notes. This gives the Indian economy a certain appeal. The country has just signed bilateral agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Australia. It is in negotiations with the United Kingdom and Switzerland.

A growing Indian economy

“The large size of the Indian market is another important asset for attracting investors,” added the IHEID professor. As well as staggering growth expected to reach 8.2% by 2022, according to the International Monetary Fund.

In addition to the draft free trade agreement, the EU has pledged to develop two other axes of cooperation with the great peninsula, said Stefania Benaglia, researcher at the Center for European Policy Studies (CEPS), a research and analysis based in Brussels. Firstly, a Technology Council should be established, on the model of the Council between Brussels and Washington. “India will become a strategic partner for the development of the crucial technologies of tomorrow,” said the researcher. Subsequently, the EU launched connectivity cooperation in the fields of energy, transport, digitization and fundamental research.”

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