India, Netherlands launch strategic partnership in water sector; vow to work closely in Indo-Pacific

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New Delhi, Apr 9 (PTI) India and the Netherlands Friday launched a strategic partnership in the water sector and announced setting up of a fast track mechanism to promote trade even as they vowed to work closely in ensuring a free and inclusive Indo-Pacific region.

At a virtual summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte also agreed to collaborate on joint development of coronavirus vaccines besides exploring ways to broaden cooperation in a host of other areas.

In the talks, the Indian side expressed the hope that there will be resumption of negotiations for the India-EU trade agreement and the investment agreement in the upcoming summit between the two sides, said an official in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

Prime Minister Modi described the talks as 'fruitful'.

'Delighted to co-chair the India-Netherlands Virtual Summit with my friend, PM @MarkRutte. We held fruitful discussions on further strengthening bilateral cooperation. I welcome the Strategic Partnership on Water with Netherlands,' he tweeted.

In his opening remarks, Modi said there have been similarities of approach between India and the Netherlands in dealing with global challenges like climate change, terrorism and pandemics.

Modi also said that both the countries are developing convergences in areas like Indo-Pacific resilient supply chains and global digital governance.

In the summit, both leaders reaffirmed their strong condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and asserted that it cannot be justified on any grounds.

'They acknowledged that terrorism and violent extremism continue to pose grave threat to international peace and security as well as for development and called upon all nations to intensify efforts to combat terrorism and prevent violent extremism,' a joint statement said.

At a media briefing, Sandeep Chakravorty, joint secretary in the Europe West division in the MEA, said Rutte mentioned that India is going to have a critical role in any Indo-Pacific strategy and that the European Union would come up with its policy for the region.

He said Rutte also apprised that a Dutch frigate will come on a voyage to the Indo-Pacific in the coming months and it will exercise with the Indian Navy.

'Both leaders emphasised the close convergence between each others vision for a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific. They committed to promoting a free, open, inclusive, rules based order anchored in international law to advance security and growth for all in the region,' the joint statement said.

The Netherlands is the third country in Europe after France and Germany to come up with their Indo-Pacific policy.

Chakravorty said the two prime ministers reaffirmed their resolve to strengthen ties in trade and investment, water management, agriculture, smart cities, urban mobility, renewable energy and space.

'In order to further intensify cooperation in water and to bring greater coherence in the sector, the two leaders announced the launch of a strategic partnership on water,' he said.

Chakravorty said the partnership will provide for cooperation in cost effective treatment technologies, converting waste water to energy, application of AI in decision making, mapping of ecosystem services, reclaiming river space, basin protection against disasters, river hazard management, introduction of new water technologies and capacity building The two leaders also agreed to elevate the joint working group on water to the ministerial level.

On trade cooperation, Chakravorty said both sides announced setting up of a fast track mechanism between the two countries to facilitate bilateral trade and to resolve issues of Dutch and Indian companies.

Referring to coronavirus pandemic, he said the two leaders also agreed to collaborate on joint development of vaccines.

He said a group of Indian engineers are already in the Netherlands to be soon part of a vaccine hub and to discuss technology transfer in vaccine production.

Chakravorty said the Serum Institute of India had acquired a Dutch company few years ago and that is going to be another vaccine manufacturing hub in the Netherlands.

He also said that there was appreciation by the Dutch side over India's farm reforms.

The joint statement said the two leaders stressed that climate action is a key priority area for both countries and agreed to cooperate closely in fulfilling their ambitious commitments under the Paris agreement. Modi also thanked Rutte for the continued Dutch support to India's permanent membership of a reformed and expanded UN Security Council, it said. PTI MPB ZMN