India obvious candidate for UNSC seat: Dutch PM

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New Delhi,, May 24 (IANS) Declaring India to be an “obvious candidate” for a seat in the UN Security Council (UNSC), the Netherlands on Thursday said it would do its utmost towards finalising an EU-India free trade agreement (FTA) with Holland providing the perfect pivot for India to expand its trade relationship with Europe.

At an interactive session here organised by industry chamber CII, the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte also said that in the face of the current wave of geo-political instability, especially in the Middle East and the protectionist moves of the US, it is important to make efforts to strengthen both multilateral trade and UN institutions.

Rutte arrived here on Thursday morning on a two-day visit to India that will also see him going to Bengaluru.

“India is an obvious candidate for a permanent seat in the UNSC…it is surprising that India isn’t a member in this day and age,” he said in his address at the CII event.

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“A Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) between the European Union (EU) and India is long overdue. I will make a personal investment in the EU-India relationship and try my best to revive the talks. Both India and EU are missing out on a lot of opportunities here,” he said.

Negotiations for the BTIA, or a free trade agreement, started in 2007 but were put on hold in 2015. In all, 16 rounds of negotiations have been held.

“We have a particular interest in this issue, because 20 per cent of Indian exports to the EU enter through Dutch ports. This role of a European hub has been bolstered by Brexit,” Rutte said.

“The improvements in ease of doing business have been welcomed by Dutch businesses. At the same time, business tells me it is still difficult to set up branches of their companies in the (Indian) states.

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“Red tape can be quite cumbersome, and I do believe there is some room for improvement,” he added.

Rutte’s delegation, which includes 15 CEOs and about 220 members in the business delegation, is the biggest ever Dutch trade mission to India.

Following a summit here between Rutte and Prime Minister Narendra India earlier on Thursday, the countries agreed to boost bilateral trade and investment and strengthen cooperation across multiple sectors, including agriculture and food processing, water management and science and technology.

Jointly addressing the media with Rutte after attending an India-Netherlands CEOs Round Table that followed the bilateral summit, Modi said that hundreds of Dutch companies have been operating in India for many years now.

Replying to a query on the summit, Rutte said the discussions also touched on the “situation in the region” and Modi’s recent visits to other countries, which would include the informal summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday at Sochi, where the unofficial agenda was to discuss the situation arising out of the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, according to Indian officials.

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“There is an arc of instability and unpredictability…a war is on in Syria and there is the unpredictability of the new American administration,” he said.

“In this situation it is important to be well embedded in the multilateral institutions like the WTO (World Trade Organisation, the UN and the EU..we need all these. Only bilateral agreements will make the world more unstable.”

He described the Iran nuclear agreement as not a “perfect deal” but which is important to keep alive for some more time

“We will work with the EU, Russia and Turkey to keep the Iran nuclear agreement going after the US withdrawal,” he said.



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