M A I N   N E W S

EU mum on N-deal
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 30
The eighth India-EU summit concluded here today with a bag of mixed results for India. The summit was a success in terms of trade, economic and scientific cooperation, but no concrete assurance was on offer from the 27-nation bloc to India on the political issue of the EU’s support to the Indo-US nuclear deal.

From the EU’s point of view, economic cooperation, trade and investment were a higher priority, also because the organisation has a clear consensus on the subject. The Indo-US nuclear deal, on the other hand, does not enjoy a very high priority for the EU. All that the EU leadership said today officially on the nuclear deal was that the EU is watching closely New Delhi's negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), but it will be up to individual EU nations to decide their stand in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

Some European nations like Austria, Ireland and Scandinavian countries, which are avowed lobbyists for the non-proliferation regime, continue to be sceptical about the India-US nuclear deal. Since they are also members of the NSG, it would not be smooth sailing for India as and when the nuclear deal comes up before the NSG for an India-specific waiver.

India and the EU ended their summit today on an upbeat note and agreed to push forward the signing of a comprehensive trade and investment agreement next year. The two sides also signed two pacts in areas of science and technology and a programme for development cooperation for 2007-2010. The two sides also agreed to promote “a good compromise” and “a definite roadmap” for the control of greenhouse gas emissions post-2012 at the upcoming climate-change meeting in Bali, Indonesia, next month.

“We totally understand India's growing needs for energy. We support the conversation between India and the US in this area,” Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates remarked when asked about the EU’s stand on supporting India in the NSG. “We are trying to reach a common position (on the India-US nuclear deal),” Socrates said at a joint press interaction with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. Portugal currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the two sides would be able to sign a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) by the next summit.

Socrates, however, reiterated the EU's common vision on nuclear energy with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) at its centre. “The use of nuclear technology must be regulated in the world. The key mechanism for regulating nuclear technology is the NPT,” Socrates said, hinting that India, a non-signatory to NPT, may have to try harder to win the backing of the NSG for the Indo-US nuclear deal.

The following two agreements were signed by the two sides during the summit:

1. The Memorandum of Understanding for Development Cooperation 2007 - 2010, signed between the European Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, and the Indian finance minister P. Chidambaram. 2. The EU-India agreement for Cooperation in Science and Technology, signed between the Indian minister for science and technology and ocean development Kapil Sibal and the European Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, and the Portuguese minister of state for foreign affairs and cooperation Joao Gomes Cravinho.

On the regional political issues, India and the EU were on the same page. They expressed their strong support for a sovereign, democratic and pluralistic Afghanistan; expressed deep disappointment at the postponement of elections in Nepal; maintained there was no military solution to the conflict in Sri Lanka; and expressed their support for the reform process in Bangladesh, including preparations for general parliamentary elections in 2008.

India and the EU also stood united in facing the scourge of terrorism and condemned terrorism “in all its forms and manifestations, committed by whomever, wherever and for whatever purpose”. Efforts to counter terrorism could only be successful with a sustained and comprehensive approach, a joint statement issued at the end of the summit said. The two sides expressed their commitment to work towards the implementation of the UN Counter-Terrorism Strategy and also towards a swift finalisation of a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism at the UN.



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