As the EU and India meet for their fifth round of negotiations for trade and investment agreements in Delhi, from 19-23 June 2023, EU and Indian citizens are calling on them to take human rights and democratic values seriously. In a Twitter campaign, citizens of both geographies are posting under the hashtag #SellGoodsNotValues.
Ritumbra Manuvie, Executive Director of The London Story, a non-profit led by Indian diaspora in the EU, says: “While the EU and India should engage more, they should not rush things. This will affect at least 2 billion people. They should take good care that they have discussed all aspects, including human rights, and consulted society in a representative way.”
EU and Indian citizens participating in the campaign expressed alarm that the push for stronger trade relations between the two actors appears to have taken precedence over urgent action on and a proper examination of human rights. Shrinking civic spaces and systematic persecution of civil society actors, human rights defenders, journalists and academics in India through counter-terror legislation have been systematically side-lined in the public EU-India relationship. Conversely, the EU and India have expressed their intention to conclude the negotiations before their respective elections in 2024, and in May 2023, the EU and India agreed to expedite the ongoing negotiations even further.
On April 12, 9 Indian diaspora organisations and international allies had first sounded the alarm bells in a joint statement. They expressed concern that the EU and India may agree on unambitious human rights standards for the sake of concluding an agreement, given current geopolitics. Such a move would seriously jeopardise human rights across the world, they warned.