German Chancellor Angela Merkel Co-Chaired the 5th Inter Governmental Consultations (IGC) with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. India is one of the select countries with whom Germany has such a high level of engagement. This was her fourth visit to India. She was accompanied by 12 ministers and a big business delegation. Chancellor Merkel met with President Ram Nath Kovind; the Indian President 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. The President’s statement indicates the willingness of New Delhi to resume the discussions on the agreement. President Kovind 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. Mr. Modi said, “Chancellor Merkel is not just a counterpart and a friend, but is also a long-serving global leader. The agreements signed 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, strengthening cooperation in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Digital Transformation, expanding the frontiers of Trade and Investment through Innovation and Knowledge, Action for Climate and Sustainable Development; Bringing People Together and Sharing Global Responsibility.
The Joint statement issued at the end of the IGC meeting was an elaborate document with 73 points covering in detail the areas of cooperation and partnership between both countries on the 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,business models and B2B-platforms, and on topics shaping future digital ecosystems for Industry 4.0”.
In the area of trade and investment, both leaders 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. The two leaders extended their 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 completes 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 nuclear deal (JCPOA) with Iran. India and Germany reiterated that strong and effective multilateral cooperation was the key to secure peace, stability and prosperity.
Script: Prof. Ummu Salma Bava,Chairperson And Jean Monnet Chair, Centre For European Studies, JNU