As the European Parliament in Brussels started its Autumn term, its Members (MEPs) were treated to an evening of traditional Indian curry and sweets, as well as an exhibition on Indian’s most recent achievements.
The evening was hosted by UK MEP Neena Gill, and Ambassador of India to Belgium, Luxembourg and the European Union, Her Excellency Gaitri Issar Kumar. Guests included MEPs, their assistants and parliamentary experts from different parties and from across the EU. Both the exhibition and speeches shared the “kaleidoscope of achievements” that are bringing success to India. “It is difficult to fully detail and characterise all that India has to offer with its vast expanses of land and wealth of cultural experiences” stated Ambassador Kumar “But India has a stake in the success of the European project and there is much that can be done together beyond just trade”.
MEP Gill insisted that “we are living in globally turbulent times, world order is being turned upside down and India is now a global player, and therefore a natural partner for the European Union – two of the largest democracies in the world”. Gill proudly described how “India has excelled in recent elections, outstripping the European election results by engaging public participation, empowering women, and increasing voter turnout to previously unseen levels, culminating in a landslide victory for Prime Minister Narendra Modi”. This, she said, was a sign that democracy, free and fair elections, and governmental transparency, is working well for Indian people across the nation.
The objective of the evening was to present the reality of India to European policy makers. India is no longer just Information Technology, yoga and the land of elephants. India has proven itself to be a dynamic innovator on the global stage, as is exemplified by the rapid expansion of India’s space program, which is currently preparing for upcoming missions to the moon and mars. The success and growth of India can be credited to the visionary leadership of Prime Minister Modi. Modi has clearly outlined what his personal initiatives and challenges are, and has been steadily following each of them through to completion, including projects that focus on recognising and celebrating the diversities of all the cultures contained in India’s population of 1.37 billion. India has always been known for its cost savings and “frugal innovation, where nothing goes to waste” and that has meant that even its space programme, of which India is very proud, is now bringing innovations and technologies to citizens and business across India.
The evening’s hosts highlighted two specific projects as India’s current flagship projects, which were not even centred on India’s gain, but on partnership building and sustainability in the region. The first is its Solar Alliance, designed with President Macron of France, and the second its Disaster Resilient Infrastructure Programme. India has been building strong partnerships with its neighbours and with African countries. It is investing in infrastructure projects, and providing credit financing for partnership building and projects. India has not gone about this in the same way that China has, dictating the terms and outcomes, but by working with other countries and the communities to strengthen relations and deliver projects needed by regions under agreeable and affordable terms.
Prime Minister Modi’s primary passion is working to solve climate change through a Disaster Resilient Infrastructure Programme. His motto is tackling the challenges of the real world. Working with countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, and the Maldives, India has set aside $1 trillion for infrastructure assistants to countries who need it for climate change mitigation. Ambassador Kumar called on the EU to support these projects, not with financing, but by joining the coalitions and sharing expertise.
The European Union could also learn from India in its commitment to the climate change debate, as India has started to be a global leader in the recycling revolution, and has committed to impose a ban on the use of all single-use plastics including plastic bags, cups, and straws by October 2nd 2019, and completely removed by 2022. This is India’s commitment to improve India’s cities and villages that are currently ranked among the most polluted in the world.
With the media spotlight on Kashmir, Ambassador Kumar said she must say a few words, and appealed the MEPs to not be dragged into the false agenda being presented by some, nor to accept the allegations of human rights abuses. “India is a democracy, it abides by the rule of law, and it is focussed on the fight against terrorism. The issue of Kashmir is being used by some as a distraction – Europe must not be pulled into this debate”.
In closing, Ambassador Kumar quoted the words of former Indian Foreign Minister Shushma Swaraj, who died last month, expressing her hope that Europe and India would work more closely together for the benefit of all. Those words were, “‘VasudhaivaKutumbakam’ -The world is one family”.