Ukraine war has consequences for Asia, EU chief tells India

·2-min read
Ursula von der Leyen is the latest visiting Western diplomat to press India over its neutral stance on the conflict (AFP/-) (-)

Russia's invasion of Ukraine threatens India's regional security, the European Union chief said Monday during a trip to New Delhi aimed at fostering deeper strategic ties.

Ursula von der Leyen is the latest visiting Western diplomat to press India, which gets most of its arms from Russia, over its neutral stance on the conflict.

Both the EU and India face challenges from a rising China, and von der Leyen raised the spectre of Beijing's partnership with Moscow to warn the war had consequences further afield than Europe.

"The outcome of the war will not only determine the future of Europe but also deeply affect the Indo-Pacific region," she told an audience at the Raisina Dialogue, an annual geopolitical conference in New Delhi.

"Russia and China have forged a seemingly unrestrained pact. "They have declared that the friendship between them has 'no limits'... What can we expect from the 'new international relations' that both have called for?"

Von der Leyen's trip to New Delhi follows several recent overtures from high-profile diplomatic guests seeking to lure India away from Russia.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi hosted his British counterpart Boris Johnson last week, during which the pair announced a new defence and security partnership.

Von der Leyen said the EU was focused on strengthening its own ties with India over the coming decade after unveiling a new special council to boost trade and tech cooperation.

In a joint statement, India and the Commission "agreed that rapid changes in the geopolitical environment highlight the need for joint in-depth strategic engagement".

India and the bloc last year agreed to resume talks on a free trade agreement that had been stuck since 2013 over issues like patent protection and tariff reductions.

The economic rise of China, and frosty relations since a deadly 2020 border clash between the two Asian giants, have softened India's long-standing reluctance to cutting import barriers.

"The European Union is India's third most important trade partner, but we can do so much more," von der Leyen said. "Our trade is far below our potential."

The two sides traded goods worth about 62.8 billion euros ($67.5 billion) in 2020, according to the European Commission.

India has talks on full free trade deals underway or due to start soon with multiple countries including Britain, Australia and Israel.

India and the United Arab Emirates signed a "milestone" economic deal to boost trade and investment in February.

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