India,EU fail to reach FTA, focus shifts from boosting trade ties to creating JWG on terror

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Brussels, Dec.10 (ANI): Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh's daylong visit here to take part in the 11th India-European Union Summit, was originally aimed at how best to enhance and broaden trade ties between the two sides, but surprisingly, there was a shift in the pre-determined narrative, and the focus moved onto international terrorism, and how India, which has faced the brunt of this menace, could provide the expertise to counter it.

When Dr. Singh departed for Brussels, it was a given in Indian media circles that New Delhi had put all drawing pins in place to seal a much awaited Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the European Union, but going by the Joint Statement and the Joint Declaration on International Terrorism issued after the summit, the signing of an FTA with the EU continues to remain a distant goal, has fallen apart, and is unlikely to see the light of day before the middle of 2011.

Both sides felt the need to specifically and prominently highlight their respective stances on the serious threat posed by international terrorism, and determined that it is essential to establish a Joint Working Group (JWG) or a Joint Terror Mechanism (JTM) to tackle the challenge head on.

On Friday, both India and the European Union acknowledged that international terrorism is "one of the most serious" threats in the world and denounced those who sponsor it.

Both India and the European Union have been targets of global terrorists in the recent past.

In Europe, there was the July 7, 2005 explosion in the underground tube service in London that claimed over 50 lives and in March 11, 2004, there was the Atocha train station bombings near Madrid, Spain, that killed 191 people and wounded over 2,000 others. In India, the city of Mumbai was subjected to a terror strike in November 2008 that claimed 166 lives and left over 300 injured.

Though Pakistan was not directly mentioned in the Joint Declaration on International Terrorism on Friday, both sides have acknowledged indirectly that the terror trail leads back to that country's lawless tribal badlands, as the antecedents of most attackers targetting the subcontinent and Europe, invariably suggests that they have received training in Pakistan with the objective of spreading mayhem around the world as part of a holy cause.

However, there is confusion in acknowledging terror emanating from Afghanistan. It is a different ballgame when it comes to Afghanistan, as each nation's pre-determined biases and assessments surface.

When it comes to Afghanistan, more often than not, the ravages of a prolonged civil war and debilitating underdevelopment are cited as key factors fanning terrorism or insurgency, and not so much the idea of a holy war.

On Friday, India and the EU underlined that both would cooperate in combating international terrorism, including cross border terrorism, and said it would be one of the key political priorities in their partnership.

They reiterated their commitments to enhance counter terrorism cooperation, as contained in the 2005 EU-India Joint Action Plan, as well as in the 2009 EU-India Summit Declaration.

Both sides also said that their strategic partnership is rooted in shared values and in the principles of democracy, pluralism, constitutional and legal rights and freedoms, and the rule of law.

It was also agreed that they would attach importance to counter terrorism cooperation in the framework of United Nations and share a commitment to universal ratification and full implementation of all UN Counter Terrorism conventions.

They also reaffirmed their conviction that the proposed Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism should become a vital component of the international legal framework against terrorism, and to intensify efforts to bring negotiations to a successful conclusion. By Smita Prakash (ANI)

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