Trade deal critical for EU-India ties: Envoy

Brussels, Jan 22 (IANS) India and Europe are "in the midst of a very important discussion on a broad-based trade and investment agreement", Indian Ambassador to the 27-member European Union Dinkar Khullar has said.

"India is very very strongly committed politically to concluding this agreement as early as possible," EuAsiaNews quoted Khullar as saying during a debate on EU-India relations in Brussels Monday night.

Negotiations on a free trade agreement between EU and India began in June 2007.

"We have come to a stage where there is an element of finality now and we should be able to decide, are we going to go ahead or not going to go ahead," he said. "There is already a lot which is behind us and here is only a limited amount to conclude the agreement."

"If we are to be truly strategic partner, I think the conclusion of this agreement will be very critical to our bilateral relations," the Indian ambassador said.

EU and India signed a Strategic Partnership agreement in 2004.

A large number of diplomats, experts, scholars and businessmen from Europe and India participated in the event titled "India goes global: What role for Europe" which was organised by a leading Brussels-based think-tank 'Friends of Europe'.

Meanwhile, Minister for External Affairs Salman Khurshid is expected to visit Brussels next week for talks with EU officials, said diplomatic sources.

Brussels will host the next EU-India summit later this year.