New Delhi: India and the European Union (EU) on Friday decided to work together to improve energy security and collaborate in research and innovation and hoped to clinch soon the free trade pact whose contours were emerging.

"There are complex issues involved but we have both agreed to expedite discussions so that we can conclude an agreement at the very earliest," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said at the 12th India-EU summit here.

Singh said both the sides have made considerable progress in the negotiations on the broad-based trade and investment agreement.

"We seek solutions that are practical, mutually beneficial and acceptable to both sides," he said.

European Commission President Jose Barroso said the two sides have taken a "significant step forward" during talks to reach a free-trade agreement and negotiations should be completed late this autumn.

"Our positions are now closer in all areas and the contours of the final agreement are emerging. We have, therefore, committed to intensifying these negotiations. I expect the finalization of these negotiations this autumn," he said.

India and the European Union have been negotiating a broad-based trade and investment deal since 2007.

However, talks are stuck on issues like easing visa regulations for Indian professionals and reduction in tariffs on cars and spirits imported from the EU.

A joint statement issued after the talks said Commerce Minister Anand Sharma and European Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht would monitor the progress of these negotiations for an early conclusion. 

Underlining the importance of dialogue and cooperation between business communities, leaders of India and the EU welcomed the business summit held on the margins of the summit.

They agreed to continue working towards an improved business climate including facilitating the exchange of information on opportunities for further collaboration, the joint statement said.

The leaders also called for progress and finalisation of an agreement between India and the European Atomic Energy Community for R&D cooperation in peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

The EU took note of the difficulties being faced by some Sikh passengers while travelling through European airports due to the turbans they wear.

The two sides acknowledged the need for effective aviation security measures and discussed the ongoing development of new technologies and methods of addressing security concerns taking into account the dignity of the individuals involved, it said.

On regional issues, the leaders of the two sides stressed a stable and democratic Pakistan is in the interest of the entire region.

"They agreed that terrorism and violent extremism represent serious threats to international peace and security and on the importance of Pakistan's cooperation with countries in the region to eliminate terrorism and dismantle terrorist networks," the joint statement said.

The two sides reaffirmed their commitment to global and non-discriminatory disarmament and to prevent proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems.

They pledged closer cooperation aimed at providing a robust nuclear non-proliferation regime and supported a prompt commencement of negotiations on FMCT. 

Stating that Europe fully shares India's quest for a stable and secure regional environment, President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy said both sides have a common interest in defeating global terror and extremism and offered a closer engagement with India to tackle the menace.

Delivering a lecture here, he said India and EU have a common interest in securing "our trade lines from the attacks of pirates, in preventing attacks to our information technology infrastructures and in successfully facing the challenge of non-proliferation."

 "The EU is fully equipped to tackle these security challenges and would like to seek a closer engagement with India in this respect," he said.

Rompuy said trade between the two sides in goods grew by 20 per cent even during the time of financial crisis between 2010 and 2011.

 "However, we are convinced that major trade opportunities are still ahead of us. The free trade agreement currently under negotiation would by many aspects be the world's largest ever, encompassing 1.8 billion people. We are making progress," he said.

Activists protest India-EU trade deal

A group of activists on Friday staged a demonstraton here to protest against the EU-India trade deal which they allege have a severe negative impact on access to affordable medicine for people in developing countries.

"If the deal is finalised, it will mean less money to us, thus less medicine and consequently we can treat only a few patients" said Leena, organiser of India chapter of Medicine Sans Frontier.

Rosalyn, whose husband is a HIV positive, said "medicines help us to live a normal physical and mental life. If this deal is finalised, it will cost us our lives, please help us in your own way so that we can have a better future ahead".

Existing trade rules already limit the possiblity of making generic versions of new medicines but the EU-India FTA "threatens" to make this situation "even worse by creating new intellectual property (IP) barriers", she said.

"This issue has passed with a very little public discussion. No one had any say about this deal, we would ask parliamentarians and people countrywide to hold debates and find out who is going to be affected by this deal before finalising it", Biraj Patnaik said.

India has been called the 'pharmacy of the developing world' because it produces quality affordable generic medicines that most of the worldwide organisations, including MSF, rely on to treat millions of people.

"Without drug registration, even MSF could be dragged to court for patent disputes" Leena added.