An INDIAN insight into the European Union

Chancellor Merkel’s Visit to India Boost Ties

Chancellor Merkel Co-Chaired the 5th Inter Governmental Consultations (IGC) with PM Modi on 1 November 2019. India is one of the few countries with whom Germany has such a high level of engagement. This is her fourth visit to India and she was accompanied by 12 ministers and a big business delegation. Before commencing the governmental consultations, Chancellor Merkel met with President Kovind and he said that “given India’s strong commercial ties with Germany, India considers Germany’s support important in mobilizing efforts within the European Union for early resumption and conclusion of a balanced EU-India Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement”. Germany is the largest trade partner of India within the EU and this statement indicates the willingness of New Delhi to resume the discussions on the agreement. The President also emphasised that both countries “should work together to strengthen multilateralism and a multi-polar world order and strengthen cooperation in counter-terrorism as well as coordinate their positions at the Financial Action Task Force meetings.

During the IGC meetings, both Prime Minister Modi and Chancellor Merkel reiterated that the Indo-German Strategic Partnership is based on the common values and principles of democracy, free and fair trade, and rules-based international order, as well as on mutual trust and respect. Prime Minister Modi said, “She is not just my counterpart and friend, but is also a long-serving global leader. The agreements signed today are a testament to the friendship and close ties that India and Germany share”.  After reviewing the joint actions initiated two years back, 11 pacts were signed between both countries that cover varied subjects and cover four broad categories, (i) strengthen cooperation in the field of Artificial Intelligence and Digital Transformation, (ii)  to expand the frontiers of Trade and Investment through Innovation and Knowledge,(iii) take Action for Climate and Sustainable Development (iv) Bringing People Together and (v) Sharing Global Responsibility.

The Joint statement issued at the end of the IGC meeting is a very elaborate document with 73 points covering in detail the areas of cooperation and partnership between both countries on the above five areas. Both sides agreed on finding synergies for use of AI and digital transformation in Health, Mobility, Environment and Agriculture and to “create linkages between the German Platform Industrie 4.0 and the upcoming CII Smart Manufacturing Platform for cooperation and exchange of information including in standardization, IT-security in networked systems, testbeds and use cases, business models and B2B-platforms, and on topics shaping future digital ecosystems for Industry 4.0”. In the area of trade and investment, both extended their support for a rules based international trading system and the WTO. Amongst others, the ‘Make in India Mittelstand’ (MIIM) Programme, German Indian Startup Exchange Program (GINSEP) was emphasised and both extended the support for “skill development in new, innovative and sustainable technologies such as renewable energy, e-mobility and energy-efficiency. Further, there was a resumption of the Indo-German Finance Ministries Senior Officials’ Meeting which provides a forum for discussion and exchange of information and mutual economic interest. Other areas include High-Speed and Semi-High-Speed-Rail-projects in India, civil aviation and welcomed the Coalition For Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI).

For both sides Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement serve as guiding frameworks in their cooperation on climate issues. In the area of energy transition the Indo-German Energy Forum, Indo-German Solar Partnership of 2015 and the cooperation on Green Energy Corridors of 2013 were highlighted. At the people to people level, “Indo-German Partnerships on Higher Education and Indo-German Science and Technology Centre was highlighted along with a push for expanding the students studying in both countries. Given that the Strategic partnership would complete two decades in 2020, it was decided to institutionalise the mechanism of the Foreign Office Consultations to be held every year at the level of the Foreign Secretary, launch a track 1.5 strategic dialogue and have meeting between the Defence Ministers so as to enhance the “bilateral defence cooperation to jointly address global and regional security challenges”. Both sides also endorsed the peaceful development of Afghanistan and full support to the JCPOA with Iran. In conclusion, both reiterated that strong and effective multilateral cooperation was the key to secure peace, stability and prosperity.