A group of European CEOs, most of them heading German businesses ranging from banks to automobile companies and chemicals to elevator firms, met Prime Minister Narendra Modi (pictured) in the capital on Monday, wanting to step up investments in India. However, there might have been another purpose to the visit: According to sources, there’s a proposal to invite Modi to the Hannover Messe (Hannover Fair) in Germany in April, and these CEOs called on the PM to discuss that as well. The world’s biggest industrial fair might be jointly inaugurated by Modi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, if things work out according to plan, sources pointed out.
Anshu Jain, head of global markets at Deutsche Bank; Dieter Zetsche, chairman of automobile major Daimler AG and head of Mercedes-Benz; Kurt Bock, chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of BASF SE, the largest chemical producer of the world; and Heinrich Hiesinger, CEO at ThyssenKrupp AG, a conglomerate cutting across sectors primarily steel, elevators and automotive, represented the German interest in India before Modi.
Others who came calling as part of the delegation included Yngve Slyngstad, CEO of Norges Bank Investment Management, which is the part of the Norwegian Central Bank. Apart from having traditional central bank responsibilities, it manages government pension fund as well. Also, there was Jeffrey Jaensubhakij, president of GIC Asset Management, a Singapore-based sovereign wealth fund. Jaensubhakij was part of the delegation perhaps because of his European connect – he was GIC’s president, Europe, till recently.
A statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office said the industrialists appreciated the economic reform initiatives of Modi and expressed their intentions to increase investments in India. Ever since he took charge as the PM in May 2014, Modi has met top industrialists from across the world including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Microsoft’s Satya Nadella.
Even as Modi has travelled to many parts of the world for summits, conferences and bilateral with political leaders and business honchos, he has just had a transit stopover in Germany without any meetings. In July 2014, on his way to the BRICS (Brazil, India, Russia, China and South Africa) summit, Modi had stopped over in Berlin.
However, Merkel had to leave for the World Cup in Brazil around the same time as the German team reached the Final of the tournament.
Since then, there have been interactions between Modi and German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in New Delhi. At the September 2014 meeting, Modi described the two nations as ”made for each other”. Modi also met Merkel on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in November 2014. It was here that Merkel told Modi that the people of Germany were looking forward to Modi’s visit. At the same summit in Brisbane, Merkel had spoken to Modi about the row over teaching German language in Indian schools. This was in reaction to a proposal to drop German (as an alternative to Sanskrit) as the third language in Kendriya Vidyalayas. Modi had assured Merkel he would look into the matter.