German Chancellor Angela Merkel will be arriving in New Delhi on Sunday night for a three-day India visit during which the two sides are expected to sign a slew of important bilateral agreements in diverse areas.
Interestingly Merkel is coming to India at a time when her personal stock is at an all time high in her country in her tenth consecutive year of rule. She is being seen as a serious contender for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize for her significant contribution in two major European crises – the ongoing deluge of migrants from the troubled Middle East and the Greek financial problems.
Merkel will hold talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday during which issues like trade, investment and increased bilateral cooperation in a number of developmental projects in diverse fields are expected to be discussed intensively.
Chancellor Merkel, who is coming with six cabinet ministers, will co-chair along with PM Modi “Intergovernmental Consultations” on Monday. Significantly, Germany is the only country with which India conducts these bi-annual joint cabinet meetings.
Though India-Germany bilateral trade is currently pegged at around $ 18 billion, it is nowhere close to its true potential considering that the two sides’ trade history which spans over 500 years – with the first German trading ships arriving in Goa in the 16th century.
Consider some more facts which bring out India’s robust engagement with Germany, Europe’s number one economy. These facts have been flagged by none other than German ambassador in India, Martin Ney.
As many as 1,700 German companies are doing business in India today and are providing jobs to roughly 400,000 Indian employees. The Indo-German Chamber of Commerce is the largest German bi-national Chamber abroad and also the largest Chamber of Commerce in India with over 7,000 German and Indian member companies across many sectors.
India is also the biggest partner of Germany’s development cooperation worldwide. In 2014, Germany provided 1.3 billion Euros for programmes in the areas of energy, environment and sustainable economic development.
Merkel’s India visit comes six months after PM Modi’s visit to Germany in April when the two leaders jointly inaugurated the Hannover Fair where Germany had set the world stage for India as the exclusive partner country.
The increasing warmth in Indo-German relations is reflected in people-to-people contacts also. The number of Indian students at German universities has been rising by 20 percent every year – to about 10,000. Besides, more and more Germans in Germany are taking to yoga and Ayurveda, watch Bollywood movies and attend Holi parties in German cities.
German ambassador Martin Ney set the increasing role of India in global affairs in perspective with the following remarks: “I believe India is in an interesting phase! India is in a crucial phase: It overhauls its economy. It reinvigorates its international engagements in order to harness its full potential as a rising power in a multipolar world. With new self-confidence, India engages its neighbourhood, re-energizes its relations to the wider world and underlines its claim as a future member of the Security Council of a reformed United Nations. India will also be a major voice at the climate summit in December in Paris.”
Germany can help India in a big way in realising its ambitious goals in such diverse areas as cleaning of rivers, upgrading infrastructure, improving air quality of Indian cities, besides lending a crucial helping hand in PM Modi’s pet schemes like Smart Cities, Skill India and Digital India.
Germany has already demonstrated its skills in cleaning two of its major rivers, Rhine and Elbe, which were heavily polluted but are now swimmable. Germany has already offered its expertise in cleaning Ganga and Yamuna.
Besides, India can harness Germany’s vocational training system and turn a demographic challenge into a true demographic dividend. PM Modi has already described Germany as “a natural partner” for his “Skill India” programme.
In the field of clean energy, where Germany is a proven world leader, India can benefit from the German expertise. Germany has already invested heavily in India’s Green Energy Corridors.
Undoubtedly, in the light of the above Merkel’s India visit (4-6 October) will be one of the most important incoming visit by a world leader.