We Have a Practical Partnership with Individual Countries, EU as a Whole: Ext Affairs Minister S Jaishankar at Raisina Dialogue 2024

By Sri Krishna

Foreign Affairs

New Delhi: External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar emphasised that India has a partnership with individual countries, adding that it also has a partnership with the European Union as a whole. Speaking during a session at the Raisina Dialogue he said, “We have a practical partnership, we have a partnership with individual countries, and we have a partnership with the EU as a whole.”

He said that India is in talks with the EU on how both can be much more self-reliant when it comes to renewable technologies. “One example that comes to mind is the collaboration we had with Germany to create the grids that were necessary for solarification to increase very rapidly. But even in terms of technology, we are very much in conversation with the EU on how we can both be much more self-reliant when it comes to renewable technologies,” he said.

Jaishankar said that people talk to each other and they have a sense of what has been the conversation. “The first thing is not to be too clever. I don’t go to one place and say something and go to another place and say something completely different, because at the end of the day, people talk to each other, and people know that at every place they have a sense of what’s been the conversation. So I think levelling with people, putting out a point of view, and being helpful at times,” he said.

Emphasising the need to be straightforward, he said that sometimes, people say, You’re a diplomat, why are you so blunt? Or why are you straightforward?” He stressed that being straightforward is the best form of diplomacy because when they consider you straightforward, they take you seriously and sincerely. “They don’t think you mean ill, they don’t think you’re putting them down, they take it for what it really is,” he added.

Jaishankar also met his counterparts from the Czech Republic, Romania and Bhutan  on the sidelines. The Foreign Minister of the Czech Republic, along with Jaishankar, explored areas of collaboration in India-Czech ties. Meanwhile, Jaishankar also met his counterpart from Romania.

Notably, the Raisina Dialogue, on the sidelines of which the Foreign Ministers of various countries met Jaishankar, is jointly organised by the Ministry of External Affairs and the Observer Research Foundation.

Hosting the  India-Nordic-Baltic meeting on the sidelines of the Raisina Dialogue 2024, Jaishankar said the exchange with his counterparts was extremely useful. The Foreign Ministers of five countries, viz. Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia and representatives of Norway, Iceland and Lithuania took part in the meeting.

“Pleased to host the India-Nordic-Baltic 8 meeting on the sidelines of #RaisinaDialogue2024. Thank FMs of Sweden @TobiasBillstrom, Finland @elinavaltonen, Denmark @larsloekke, Estonia @Tsahkna, Latvia @krisjaniskarins, and representatives of Norway, Iceland and Lithuania for joining,” Jaishankar said in a post on X. The discussions were held on clean and green technologies, digital and cyber cooperation. The foreign ministers also talked on regional, global and multilateral issues.

“Clean and green technologies, digital and cyber cooperation, high-quality skills and global supply chains hold great promise for our future endeavours. The exchange of perspectives on regional, global and multilateral issues was extremely useful,” his post added. The first two India-Nordic Summits were held in Stockholm in April 2018 and in Copenhagen in May 2022, respectively.

The second CII India Nordic Baltic Business Conclave was held in Delhi in November last year, when Jaishankar stressed that India’s engagement with the Nordic-Baltic Eight (NB8) has expanded in the last few years. “Our engagement with the NB8 countries has expanded clearly in the last few years. We opened our embassies in Tallinn in December 2021 and in Vilnius this year in March,” Jaishankar had said.

Union Minister of Commerce and Industry, Piyush Goyal, addressed the second CII India Nordic-Baltic Business Conclave 2023, where he stressed on India’s exports to Nordic regions increasing significantly in recent years. The Union Minister pointed out that India’s exports to the Nordic region have grown by over 39 per cent from 2018-19 to 2022-23 and that exports to Finland and Norway have grown by over 100 per cent and 80 per cent respectively.

Notably, the NB8 countries collectively represent an economy of more than USD 2 trillion, with a population of about 33 million and a high standard of living.

Speaking at the Dialogue, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal  said  India will take up the carbon tax issue “very” strongly with the European Union (EU) and address it with the 27-nation bloc. He also said that simultaneously, India will strengthen and prepare itself to convert the issue into an opportunity. Non-tariff barriers and unilateral measures like carbon taxation are issues of concern for India, but the country will be a responder in a free and fair manner within the rules of international trade.

“Where we have to retaliate, we will retaliate; where we have to take countermeasures, we will take countermeasures; where we have to have conversations, discussions and solve issues bilaterally, we will discuss and solve them and where we have to take it up legally, we will do that,” Goyal said. Citing an example, he said the CBAM (Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism) has been a matter of concern for different businesses. “CBAM is something we will take up very strongly within the rules of the WTO (World Trade Organisation), we will be addressing that issue bilaterally also with the EU,” Goyal said.

The CBAM or carbon tax (a kind of import duty) will come into effect from January 1, 2026. Companies from seven carbon-intensive sectors, including steel, cement, fertiliser, aluminium and hydrocarbon products, may have an impact from this tax. According to a report of the think tank Global Trade Research Initiative (GTRI), CBAM will translate into a 20-35 per cent tax on select imports into the EU starting January 1, 2026. India’s 26.6 per cent of exports of iron ore pellets, iron, steel, and aluminium products go to the EU. These products would be hit by CBAM. India exported these goods worth US$ 7.4 billion in 2023 to the EU.

He said India would convert this into “our advantage. We have plans, (but) I cannot disclose…but I can assure each and every person in India that the prime minister and his team will ensure that Indian business does not suffer and we are right on top of issues such as this”.

Lauding the Raisina Dialogue 2024, Congress MP and former UN diplomat Shashi Tharoor said that it is a very good innovation and gives India’s diplomacy a good image with all the countries that come and participate. The Raisina Dialogue, according to Tharoor makes India a place where several countries, about 118 countries this time, come to see what’s going on in India.

Tharoor said, “Dialogue, which was instituted  ten years ago, is a very good innovation because it makes India a place where several countries, about 118 countries this time, come to see what’s going on in India, but also to meet each other.” “They discuss issues in common and they have networking on the sidelines of this dialogue,” he underlined.

Calling the Raisina Dialogue a good initiative, the Congress MP said that it is a good private-public partnership, and gives India’s diplomacy a good image with all the countries that come and participate. “It’s been taken by both the Ministry of External Affairs and by the Observer Research Foundation, a good private-public partnership, which I think certainly gives India’s diplomacy a good image with all the countries that come and participate,” Tharoor said.

“And as this grows in importance and we keep attracting more and more prominent people, definitely this will be a major forum for the country,” he added.

The Raisina Dialogue 2024 comprised over 100 sessions spanning panel discussions, roundtables, Raisina Firesides, and associated events. Nearly 3,000 participants from 120 countries were hosted at the Raisina Dialogue 2024. The participants included serving and former heads of state, ministers and lawmakers, diplomats, policy planners, military leaders, heads of multilateral institutions, business chiefs and eminent thinkers whose collective agency “ensured rich and diverse discussions” at the Dialogue.