Indo-German ties touch new high

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Germany saw the two sides sign over a dozen memorandums of understanding (MoUs) and agreements in an array of fields, including economic development, rail safety, cyber policy, health, renewable energy, alternative medicine, education etc. Underscoring the priority it accords to promoting green technology, Germany has promised India $2.5 billion for a clean energy corridor and solar projects. German investors have often complained that their investments in India are entangled endlessly in bureaucratic red tape. To address their concerns, a fast track system has been set up for German companies operating in India. They will need to deal with a single point of contact in the Indian government instead of having to run from one office to another to move files as has been the trend hitherto. The Modi government’s decision to replace the teaching of German with Sanskrit as a third language option in Kendriya Vidyalaya schools had irked the German government, prompting Prime Minister Angela Merkel to raise the issue when she met Modi last year. The two sides have done well to work through that tangle; at the just-concluded Modi-Merkel meet, they signed a pact providing for German as a foreign language in India and promotion of Indian languages in Germany.

India-Germany relations go back several centuries. The two countries have been strategic partners since 2001. They have put in place several institutionalised arrangements such as the strategic dialogue, foreign office consultations and the Indo-German Energy Forum to meet regularly and address irritants. This has helped streng­then bilateral ties. Still, the full potential of the relation­ship has not been tapped. The present may be an opportune time for the two countries to tap that potential.

Germany’s relations with the US are fraying. Trump has accused Germany of not addressing the bilateral trade imbalance and under-contributing to Nato, while Merkel is peeved with Trump’s insular approach to global affairs and his likely withdrawal from the climate change treaty, which Merkel has strongly supported. Germany is looking for new partners especially in Asia. While China’s deep pockets makes it an attractive partner, its authoritarian political system and lack of transparency repel Germany. This is where India scores; Germany is drawn to India’s democratic culture, plural society and commitment to a multi-polar world. There are concerns they share, such as those over terrorism and religious extremism. Enhan­ced Indo-German cooperation could benefit the people of not only the two countries but also, the world. Opportu­nity has opened up and Modi and Merkel must act swiftly before that window closes. At his meeting with Merkel, Modi remarked that India and Germany are made for each other. He must turn that rhetoric to reality.

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