Manjeev Singh Puri as the Ambassador of India to the European Union (EU), Belgium and Luxembourg has a unique vantage point on the unfolding global order following the UK's referendum result in favour of an exit from the EU. The seasoned diplomat, who took charge in Brussels in January 2014, takes time out for 'India Global Business' to give a broad view of what the post-Brexit scenario could look like for India. What do you see as a Brexit impact on India-EU ties, if any The EU is one of India's largest economic relationships. And, the UK is one of our biggest partners within the EU, apart from being a very large economy in itself. As of now even the initial steps towards Brexit have not been taken by the UK and we don't have any idea what the contours of the deal will look like. A detailed assessment can only be made after the terms of the UK's separation from the economic bloc are known; the nature of the agreement on whether it remains a part of the single market or not are all very critical factors. However, along with challenges, there are major opportunities, both with the EU and the UK, and I believe these need to be the focus of our efforts in the interim. As far as the EU is concerned, it is important to remember that even without the UK, it would still remain one of the largest markets in the world with a GDP of over $15 trillion and 450 million people. India's bilateral trade, including services, would still be around 85 billion. And, the EU would remain a major source of FDI [foreign direct investment] and technology for us. Also, it would continue its lead role as a global standard setter. Is the India-EU trade agreement likely to move forward in the current climate We have been strongly urging the EU to restart the India-EU Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) negotiations. The ball is really in their court. Of course, these negotiations need to factor in the reality of a major EU economy - the UK - no longer being part of their market.
What more can India be doing to engage with the EU as a trading bloc Our engagement with the EU is at the highest level of summits, apart from other meetings at the leaders levels that take place on the margins of multilateral meetings. In March this year, the 13th India-EU Summit was held in Brussels and Prime Minister Modi met the Presidents of the European Council and Commission. In an unprecedented act, the EU leaders were also joined by the President of the European Parliament and the President of the European Investment Bank. Since then, we have had meetings with the EU at the level of the commerce minister and in various Joint Working Groups, including on textiles, pharmaceuticals, ICT and in the Macro-Economic Dialogue between India and the EU. What are some of the sectors you would highlight as key to India-EU ties Investment and technology infusion from the EU in India is of critical interest to us along with the possibilities for us
to expand our exports of services to the EU. Trade is obviously a vital component of this relationship. In so far as specific sectors are concerned, textiles, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, machinery and mechanical equipment's, mineral products, precious metals, including diamonds, agricultural products and, of course, services, are key for us. The important sectors from the EU side are machinery, precious metals, chemical products, base metals, vehicles and optical devices. On a personal front, what has been the highlight of your posting so far Honourable Prime Minister's [Modi] visit to Brussels in March this year was obviously the highlight of my time here. We held the India-EU Summit after a gap of four years and his interaction with the leadership of the EU has hugely reinvigorated the relationship. Among other aspects we have been able to establish a major relationship with the European Investment Bank, which is the world's largest public development oriented financial institution. The packed 17-hour visit, also saw Honourable PM holding a bilateral summit with his Belgian counterpart and addressing a huge gathering of NRIs [non-resident Indians] and PIOs [People of Indian Origin], an unprecedented event for Brussels also in its size, outreach and the enthusiasm that it has evoked in the Indian community. Your views on Brexit and what it could mean for the future of EU. The relationship between the EU and the UK would obviously not be the same. The EU would lose one of its major economic and political member-state. And, the UK would have to adjust to not being an integral part of the European Union even if its ties to the single market are ironed out. Moreover, issues regarding the role of London as the main financial hub for the Eurozone would need to be sorted out. Nonetheless, the EU will continue to be the world's largest economic bloc and technologically a huge player in the world. Even without the UK, the EU will remain a large behemoth. The focus for India should be on nurturing relationships on all sides.