India and EU agree to cooperate

India and the European Union said their relationship took a big leap forward Wednesday at a summit where they agreed to work together more closely on increasing trade, boosting technology and fighting terrorism.

The deal setting out areas of cooperation puts the relationship "on a new, higher and more intense level," said British Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency. "This does mark ... a significant change, a turning point in relations."

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the wide-ranging agreement "sets the signposts of the way ahead ... so that we may realize the full potential" of the India-EU relationship.

Europe is eager to widen trade ties with its South Asian ally, whose booming economy is making it a major force in the business world. Such hopes got a boost from the announcement at the summit that Indian Airlines had agreed to buy 43 jets from the French-based European consortium Airbus for US$2.2 billion (Ђ1.76 billion).

A joint statement released after the summit said India and the EU had pledged to boost anti-terrorism cooperation and crack down on terrorist financing and money laundering.

A new trade board will work to increase business between India and Europe, the statement said.

The two sides agreed to work together to seek cleaner sources of energy to fight global warming.

Blair has made the environment a priority on his four-day trip to China and India, saying that as rapidly developing economies demanding increasing amounts of energy, their participation is crucial to the success of any effort to tackle climate change.

The EU and India also agreed to collaborate more closely on science and technology and Europe said it would press for India's participation in an international nuclear fusion research program.

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