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Formed in 2000, the IDSN is a network of international organisations, national solidarity networks and affected country groups, campaigning against caste-based discrimination throughout the world, from the dalits of South Asia to the Osu of Nigeria and the Burakumin of Japan. Visit our website International Dalit Solidarity Network for more information. SUBMIT DALIT NEWS HERE

Wednesday, November 10, 2004  
EU and India Agree 'Strategic Partnership'

Inter Press Service News Agency, IPS
8 November, 2004

Stefania Bianchi

The European Union and India have signed an unprecedented ”strategic partnership” deal amidst concerns over India's human rights record. Top European Union (EU) officials and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed the agreement Monday (Nov. 8) at the 5th EU-India summit in The Hague, the Netherlands.

The agreement outlines how the two sides will cooperate on trade, research, development, counter-terrorism, shipping, regional concerns, conflict resolution, the environment and space exploration. Both sides said they also hope to work closer on improving cultural ties and cooperate more in the battle against HIV/AIDS. The partnership is due to be fully in effect by January next year. Shortly after the meeting the EU and India declared that progress had been made in a range of areas. [...]

The agreement means that India will become a special EU partner alongside the United States, Canada, China and Russia.

However, some human rights groups say the EU has ”reneged” on its responsibility to address human rights issues with India in recent years. They are urging more ”frank and open dialogue” between the two parties. A coalition of three human rights groups - the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN), which campaigns against caste-based discrimination -- says the EU's engagement with India has ”burgeoned in economic terms and failed in human rights terms.”

The groups say that in spite of India's recent high rate of economic growth, there is a ”dark side” to the subcontinent. They say human rights abuses include ”the rampant and unchecked use of torture by police, the impunity of people responsible for inter-religious massacres and crimes against humanity, the extensive definitions of anti-terrorism laws, bonded labour, violence against women, the re-application of the death penalty.” The groups add that India has also failed to meet its requirements in the United Nations by failing to submit reports for eight years to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination which monitors human rights records, and for 13 years to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

They add that India is also neglecting to ratify the Convention against Torture, which prohibits such actions. The groups say that such issues are ”very serious” and demand urgent attention. ”When the EU fails to raise human rights concerns with a vibrant constitutional democracy it begs the question: what is India so sensitive about?” says IDSN coordinator Rikke Nöhrlind. The groups hope that the new government installed earlier this year will carry out its promises to address these issues. ”The EU must now more than ever stand by its principle of human rights for all, and use every means in its power - including diplomacy, trade and aid - to encourage and assist India to meet these challenges,” says FIDH president Sidiki Kaba. [...]

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