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India, EU agree to broaden ties amid Ukraine war

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is on a two-day trip to India. Source: Indian MEA/Twitter.

NEW DELHI: European Union (EU) chief held talks with officials in New Delhi on Monday and agreed set up a trade and technology council to step up cooperation

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is on a two-day trip to India as part of Western efforts to encourage New Delhi to reduce ties to Russia, its main weapons supplier, following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. India has refrained from explicitly condemning Russia’s invasion, while calling for an immediate end to violence.

The United States is the only other country that has a technical agreement with the EU similar to the one signed on Monday with India. “I think this relationship today is more important than ever,” von der Leyen said in her opening remarks during a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “We have a lot in common but we are also facing a challenging political landscape.”

She identified cooperation on security, climate change and trade as the main areas of focus. “Both sides agreed that rapid changes in the geopolitical environment highlight the need for joint in-depth strategic engagement,” an EU-India joint statement said.

“The Trade and Technology Council will provide the political steer and the necessary structure to operationalise political decisions, coordinate technical work, and report to the political level to ensure implementation and follow-up in areas that are important for the sustainable progress of European and Indian economies.”

The visit comes days after British Prime Minister Boris met his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, and agreed to increase bilateral defence and business cooperation. Johnson was preceded by US officials and the foreign ministers of Russia and China.

READ MORE: ‘No Pressure’ from UK over stance on Russia’s invasion, says India

The EU chief was expected to offer to increase sales of European military equipment to India and relaunch talks on a free trade deal. “They reviewed progress in the vibrant India-EU strategic partnership & agreed to deepen cooperation in areas of trade, climate, digital technology and people-to-people ties,” Indian Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Arindam Bagchi, said on Twitter.

Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said after meeting Von der Leyen that they “exchanged views on the economic and political implications of the Ukraine conflict”.  India has continued to buy oil from Russia despite sanctions imposed on Moscow from the United States and other developed countries.

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