India, European Union (EU) To Seal Connectivity Deal To Counter China’s Ambitious BRI — Reports

India and the European Union (EU) are making joint efforts to seal a “connectivity agreement”, which could be an answer to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), according to reports.  

A virtual meeting which is scheduled for May 8 in Lisbon will also revive the stalled negotiations on trade and investment deals. The meeting will be chaired by the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President of European Council Charles Michel and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen.

Modi took to Twitter to thank the EU for its “support and assistance to India’s COVID response” and showed that he is “confident that the meeting will provide a new momentum to our strategic partnership.”

Ursula von der Leyen wrote on Twitter that “clear momentum” will help strengthen the strategic relations between India and the EU.

Hindustan Times quoted an EU Diplomat as saying, “It is an India-EU answer to China’s Belt Road Initiative as the connectivity partnership will take into account environment and sustainable development and totally transparent processes… is akin to India-Japan bidding in Sri Lankan port project.”

China’s BRI, sometimes referred to as the New Silk Road, is one of the most ambitious infrastructure projects ever launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013 which includes a vast collection of development and investment initiatives aimed to stretch from East Asia to Europe and increase China’s economic and political influence.

According to an article published by Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, China has bypassed India’s concern and contention on the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which passes through Pakistan Controlled Kashmir.

These extensive activities will ensure Chinese influence and clout in different parts of the world. The expanding role undertaken by Beijing via the One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative especially in South Asia has made India apprehensive.

Therefore, the connectivity project will not just open new possibilities between India-EU relationships but also create assets in third countries. Reports suggest the agreement will link India and the EU in transport, energy, digital world and establish people-to-people contact by creating assets and capacities in not only India and EU also joint investment in other countries, specifically Indo-Pacific.

Besides, the connectivity agreement will also involve the private sector to create assets in the Indo-Pacific region without burdening the third party (country) with debt.  New Delhi has emphasized greatly the efforts to counter Beijing’s growing economic activities by joint efforts with its allies.