Speech Minister Hoekstra at Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) Europe Business and Sustainability Conclave

Speech by Minister of Foreig Affairs Wopke Hoekstra at the Special Ministerial Plenary at the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) Europe Business and Sustainability Conclave, Wednesday 1 March.

Ladies and gentlemen,

What a great pleasure to be here and to address you at this special plenary session.

Although our countries are thousands of miles apart, that has not prevented us from getting to know each other. Indeed, the Netherlands has the largest Indian diaspora in continental Europe.

Personally, I got acquainted with your beautiful country and capital when I was 26 and traveled through parts of India. I was impressed by so many things… but perhaps most by your ‘can do’ mentality. A mentality I witnessed time and again… Also when I did my MBA, where Indian people were the highest contingent at the business school. And also when I worked at Mckinsey, where I was inspired by many brilliant Indian colleagues.

Although our countries are thousands of miles apart, we are connected by trade and innovation. These are more than activities we’re good at, they comprise a mindset, deeply embedded in our countries’ DNA. And it’s one of the reasons why our countries have found each other. Because trade is more than a business transaction. It also builds bridges to places far away. It builds deep relationships. And so I'm very enthusiastic to explore our cooperation further. 

Ladies and gentlemen,

Besides that shared mindset, I also believe that the future ahead of us will also be shaped by something else we share. Something described so well by my fellow minister Dr Jaishankar in his book The India Way: Strategies for an Uncertain World. And which can be summarized in two words: values and strategies.

In this respect, the India way, the EU way, and the Dutch way are quite alike. Since we all share a strong belief in democracy, freedom, and the rules-based international order. And we too believe that strategic partnerships driven by these beliefs can enable us to stand strong in a world that’s both unsafe and unstable.

We see this in Europe, where Russia has invaded Ukraine and where a war has been raging for more than a year now. Not only is this war destroying Ukraine, it also poses a threat to the continent’s stability. After all, the sovereignty represented by internationally recognised borders forms the backbone of European security.

Yet I realise all too well that Asia, too, faces uncertainty. We truly understand the security issues that your country has to deal with. These concerns are at the forefront of our minds. The question we must answer is: how do we deal with these global uncertainties. As Dr Jaishankar said in his book The India Way, self-reliance is more important than ever, and I quote: ‘for an approach of self-reliance to succeed, it must be accompanied by a greater sense of self-confidence.’ Again, in that respect the India way and the EU way look alike. Because the EU too must become a more independent, assertive and self-confident player.

At the same time, I think that the path of self-reliance and self-confidence can only be taken together. Together with countries that think alike in many ways. And that share similar goals. Like the Netherlands.

My country is ready to contribute to India’s success story and the possibilities for cooperation are countless. We have long cooperated in the areas of water and agriculture. And in our response to emerging global challenges, new sectors for cooperation are rightly being added, such as cyber and digital health. Recently we concluded the second Cyber Dialogue between our countries, in which we strengthened our ties in the field of cyber security, and affirmed that we would seek to cooperate in future. And we will seek cooperation in many other fields too.

Yet taking the road together also means together with Europe. Indeed, I strongly believe that combining the India way with the EU way will result in a major upgrade: a multi-lane highway, you could say. Because India is the largest democracy in the world. And Europe the largest democratic union in the world. By joining forces, we can better protect what we all believe in.

Together, we have an unrivalled capacity to advance democratic values and promote the international rules-based order. Yet the EU and India can also cooperate in other ways. For example by establishing a safe, stable and secure Indo-Pacific, and by helping each other to become more independent.

Ladies and gentlemen,

‘Today’s era is not the era for war,’ Prime Minister Modi said. Every word of that sentence is true. Every word. Yet unfortunately, the reality is that our era is marked by war. War that could be the harbinger of even more instability, more hunger and more suffering. And we must do something about it. By recognising what binds us: Our strong belief in the rules-based order. Our strong belief in democracy. Our strong belief in stability, in the Indo-Pacific, in Europe. And by working towards a deeper strategic partnership driven by these common goals.

I think I speak for everyone when I say that tomorrow’s era should be an era for stability, prosperity and peace. For that to happen, let’s make this an era of collaboration and of shared beliefs.

Because the only way forward is one that we embark on together.

Thank you.