The EU and India agreed on Saturday to relaunch long-stalled trade talks in a major push to boost ties at a video summit held under the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic battering the south Asian giant.
“The EU and India are opening a new important chapter in our relationship. We are the world’s two largest democracies. We are natural partners,” European Council chief Charles Michel said.
The devastating wave of infections sweeping India impacted the meeting by forcing Prime Minister Narendra Modi to scrap plans to fly to Portugal to see his European counterparts.
But the 27-nation bloc and the world’s largest democracy remain determined to capitalise on growing momentum for closer relations fuelled by shared concerns over the rising might of China.
European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen hailed the decision to restart trade talks after an eight-year break as a “landmark moment”.
“I am positive that we will be able to do a major step forward because between the EU and India there is a close relationship, but also a lot of untapped potential,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said.
EU countries have sent medical equipment and drugs worth an estimated 100 million euros ($120 million) to India as part of international efforts to help it fight against the flood of COVID-19 cases.
Von der Leyen insisted that the bloc “stands firmly at the side of India in this most challenging time” and pledged that “further assistance will follow”.