India, EU agree to tackle online extremism, radicalization

NEW DELHI — The European Union and India agreed Friday to step up cooperation in countering violent extremism and radicalization, particularly online, and in enhancing maritime security in the Indian Ocean and beyond.

A joint declaration issued at the end of the 14th EU-India Summit said the two sides aim to deal effectively with the threat posed by foreign terrorist groups and terrorist financing.

It said they were also looking forward to a resumption of exercises between EU and Indian naval ships.

The two sides also discussed the crisis involving more than 500,000 Rohingya Muslims fleeing from violence in Myanmar, and called for a de-escalation of tensions and their voluntary return home in safety and dignity.

The EU delegation was headed by European Council President Donald Tusk, and the Indian side by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In a speech, Tusk referred to remaining differences in negotiations between the two sides on an ambitious free trade agreement they have been negotiating since 2007.

The EU has been seeking reduced restrictions on investment in India's retail, insurance and banking sectors and lower import duties on foreign cars, while India wants more opportunities in Europe for its information technology services and business outsourcing.

"Free and fair trade agreements are not only economically important for our companies and citizens to prosper," Tusk said. "Above all, they strengthen and defend the rules-based international order and our way of life.'"

The free trade agreement is to cover market access in goods, services and public procurement, as well as create a framework for investment protection, intellectual property and competition.

The EU is India's largest trading partner, accounting for 13.7 percent of its overall trade, ahead of China and the United States.

The total value of EU-India trade in goods stood at $90 billion in 2016.

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