BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union’s chief executive will seek to increase sales of European military equipment to India and relaunch talks on a free trade deal when she meets India’s prime minister in New Delhi on Monday, a senior EU official said.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s visit is part of Western efforts to encourage India to reduce its ties to Russia after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, and follows a trip last week by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
“There are a whole host of Western leaders reaching out to India right now to see what alternatives we can provide,” the senior EU official said. “The key is that we want to bring forward this relationship, work on technology together and bring India into our camp, that’s the main message of our visit,” the official said.
Von der Leyen arrived in India on Sunday for a two-day official visit, her first as president of European Commission.
India has not explicitly condemned the Feb. 24 invasion by Russia, its biggest supplier of military hardware.
Von der Leyen aims to agree with India’s premier, Narendra Modi, to set up a new trade and technology council similar to an EU-U.S. model, which could discuss digital privacy, regulation of technology companies and social media platform supervision, the senior EU official said.
The EU and India will also likely agree to relaunch free trade talks, which were frozen in 2013 over differences including tariff reductions and patent protection, and have not moved forward significantly since an EU-India virtual summit in May 2021.
India, the world’s second-most populous country with nearly 1.4 billion people, is seen by the EU as a crucial ally to help manage China’s rise from a benign trading partner to a rival power with a growing military presence.
A 2020 study by the European Parliament put the benefits of a trade deal for the EU with India at up to 8.5 billion euros ($9.17 billion), although the estimate was made before Britain’s departure from the bloc.
($1 = 0.9264 euros)
(Reporting by Robin Emmott; Editing by Frances Kerry)