A ‘Zeitenwende’ in the India-Germany relationship

Source– The post is based on the article “A ‘Zeitenwende’ in the India-Germany relationship” published in The Hindu on 7th March 2023.

Syllabus: GS2- Bilateral groupings and agreements

Relevance: India and Germany relationship

News- Chancellor Scholz of Germany made a two ­day visit to India, that began on February 25, 2023,

How is Germany undergoing major changes in its external approach?

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has been a watershed moment in Germany’s security policy. It has resulted in the abandonment of post-war pacific policy towards strategic matters. This is evident in Germany’s increased military spending.

Russia’s war and China’s assertive posturing have brought into question Germany’s approach of change through trade. It has prompted a rethink of its energy and trade dependencies. The focus is now on diversifying economic relations.

In a departure from previous Asia policy that centred around China, Mr. Scholz first visited Japan after assuming office in 2021. He later invited Mr. Modi for the 6th Intergovernmental Consultations to Berlin.

This enhanced political outreach to Asia is part of Germany’s overall strategy for the Indo­Pacific Region. It mentions India as a key partner.

For Germany, the stability of supply chains and trade routes linking Asia to Europe assumes critical importance. The reason is its status as Europe’s economic powerhouse and its reliance on exports.

What are the points of convergence between India and Germany?

As ties with Russia and China are uncertain, Europe is prioritising values based partnerships with like minded countries. It can advance India­-German cooperation.

The German government’s coalition agreement in 2021 refers to relations with India among its top foreign policy priorities.

Mr. Scholz has expressed Germany’s intent to enhance its strategic involvement in the Indo-Pacific through greater military deployment.

Germany’s symbolic gesture of sending its frigate Bayern to the Indo­Pacific in 2021, with a stopover in Mumbai was a demonstration of this.

A recent agreement on India­-Germany triangular cooperation involving development projects in third countries is also an important step in this direction.

What is the status of the bilateral relationship between India and Germany?

Defence and security– New Delhi attempts to diversify from its military dependence on Russia. Berlin is also reassessing its arms exports policy. Germany could become an important defence partner for India.

The recent meetings between heads of the states included discussions around co­development of military hardware and tech transfers.

A deal worth $5.2 billion where Germany would jointly build six conventional submarines in India could be underway. Besides, the first ever France-­India­-Germany military exercise drill is slated to take place in 2024.

Yet, it is important for the two countries to set realistic expectations in the security realm. Despite their common concerns regarding stability in the Indo­Pacific, Germany does not share a border with China.

India has territorial conflicts with China. Despite the lack of German trust in China, there exists economic interdependence.

It is encouraging that Germany is drafting a new official China strategy amidst a wider national security strategy.

On global issues– India and Germany also cooperate in multilateral forums, as part of the G­4 grouping pushing for United Nations Security Council reform.

Discussions on the Russia­ Ukraine conflict and its global repercussions were the centre stage of talks between two Modi and Scholaz. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has reiterated India’s commitment to contribute to any peace process.

Economy– Germany is India’s largest economic partner in the European Union (EU). The Chancellor had a high powered business delegation with him during visit to India.

Clean energy and green technologies- It has emerged as the central pillar in the partnership. The Green and Sustainable Development Partnership was launched last year. There exists cooperation in the area of green hydrogen.

Mobility and migration– It is also a focus area. Germany has shortages of skilled manpower; where technically skilled Indians could help plug this gap.

What is the future of bilateral partnership?

The relationship is steadily evolving into a more wholesome Partnership.

Divergent positions on the war have not undermined India’s regular political engagements with Europe.

An intensification of the Russia-­China axis could further embolden this alignment. Against the backdrop of volatile geopolitical shifts, emerging multipolarity, India’s ties with Germany could be vital in shaping a new global order.

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