External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar on Wednesday said that India regards Portugal as one of the key partners in the European Union (EU) and can be counted for supporting New Delhi's ongoing free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations with the EU.
"I do want to say that we have always regarded Portugal as one of our key partners in the European Union. The first ever India-EU Summit was actually held in 2000 under the Portuguese presidency. And the first ever India-EU at a 27 leadership Summit was also held in 2021 under the Portuguese presidency.
It had to be virtual at that time because of the Covid. So we count very much on Portuguese support for our FTA negotiations with the EU that is underway," Jaishankar said during a joint press statement with his Portugese counterpart Joao Gomes Cravinho.
"We reviewed the implementation on the Agreement of the recruitment of Indian citizens to work in Portugal. We have agreed on a standard operating procedure for that, and there will be a pilot project to take it forward. We also discussed youth mobility and mutual recognition of academic qualifications.
There was also an understanding that we would set up a consular dialogue mechanism, and we'd be happy to come here to Portugal for the first meeting of that," Jaishankar further said. The External Affairs Minister is currently on a visit to Portugal.
"Today, in our own meeting, we've had a very, very detailed assessment of our bilateral partnership. We see a lot of new energy and activities across several sectors. Trade and investment is clearly a strong driving force.
Indian companies like Indian IT companies, especially, have made their mark in Portugal. I was also happy to see that Amul, which is our main milk and dairy company, is the first Indian regional sponsor of the Portuguese National Football team," Jaishankar added during the press briefing.
"We are going to ask our Joint Economic Committee to follow up on some of our discussions and see what more we could be doing in health, pharmaceuticals, renewable energy. We also discussed defense cooperation, startups, innovation as well. There was some talk between us on direct air connectivity, because that is today a missing piece in the relationship.
"We're very confident that our exchanges would expand once we can progress on that. And both of us put a lot of weight on development of tourism, and that too would grow with direct air connectivity," the External Affairs Minister added.
Jaishankar and Cravinho also spoke about cultural cooperation, about the maritime heritage complex in Lothal, which is being developed in collaboration with Portugal. "There was some discussion on how we could work trilaterally in third countries, because both of us have some history of doing development partnerships, capacity building, education, health. So to the extent we can pool our resources and our experience and our relationships here. I think we will be able to do more good in an efficient way," Jaishankar said.
He said that during their meeting, he will be briefing Cravinho on India's G20 presidency, which has seen some progress on key global challenges like SDG realisation, green development, digital public infrastructure, sustainable lifestyle, food security, and women-led development.
"As he (Cravinho) pointed out, we will definitely be talking about what we call West Asia. I think you folks call it Middle East. The conflict in Ukraine, developments in the Indo-Pacific; I think these are all subjects that will be on our agenda. We look forward to marking in 2025 the establishment of 50 years, re-establishment of our diplomatic relations," Jaishankar added.
The External Affairs Minister said he will be calling on Portugese Prime Minister Antonio Costa later on Wednesday. "He (Costa) has always provided guidance and motivation for us to enter this new phase of our ties. So I look forward very much to the meeting. So all in all, I would say that we are two countries with a long-standing, historical bilateral relationship. And our task is to move it into a more modern and multifaceted incarnation. I think today we have made some progress in that regard," he said.