BRUSSELS--The EU is continuing with plans to step up its presence in Asia by readying another lucrative PR agency tender, this time focusing on India and South Asia.

The tender, worth as much as €4.25m, comes after the Holmes Report revealed details earlier this month of the organization's search for public relations counsel in China and Southeast Asia, to help it deepen political, economic and cultural relationships in the two regions.

In particular, the initiatives are being viewed as an attempt to support the passage of free trade agreements between the EU and various Asian countries.

The new South Asia tender has similar objectives in mind and, like the other lucrative Asian contracts, will be formally released next month by the EuropeAid Directorate-General, which oversees the EU's international development and cooperation activities, 

In addition to India, EU procurement documents also specify other South Asian markets: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka.

The overall goal, according to the pre-tender notice, is to make the EU a "more relevant global actor" in the region, by promoting its policies and boosting understanding of its agenda.

Free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations between the EU and India commenced in 2007 and are expected to conclude soon, after movement on specific trade barriers. The value of EU-India trade grew from €28.6 billion in 2003 to €79.9 billion in 2011, while EU investment in South Asia's dominant economy more than tripled during the same period.

The EU is also keen to improve trade links with the broader South Asian region and has supported the development of a South Asia Free Trade Agreement. Since 2006, the EU has held observer status at the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC), which includes all of the countries named in the tender.