Angela Merkel’s visit boosts India-Germany ties

The Intergovernmental Consultations, which started in 2011 in New Delhi and are held biennially, have become occasions to sign important development cooperation agreements

November 5, 2019

With bilateral trade touching US$24.1 billion in 2018-19, Germany is currently India’s strongest trading partner in Europe

Germany is the seventh-largest foreign investor in India with US$11.9 billion of investments from April 2000 to June 2019

Currently, there are more than 1,600 Indo-German collaborations and over 600 Indo-German joint ventures in operation

There are over 20,800 Indian students across German universities, along with a growing number of German students in India

German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel visited India from October 31 to November 1, 2019, to attend the fifth edition of bilateral Intergovernmental Consultations (IGC). The visit, which followed an invitation from Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, further cemented Indian-Germany ties. On the trip, Chancellor Merkel was accompanied by the German Ministers for Foreign Affairs, Science and Education, Food and Agriculture, along with an official delegation. Additionally, a business delegation comprising leaders of German companies accompanied Chancellor Merkel. During the visit, Chancellor Merkel held meetings with President Shri Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Modi, among others. Bilateral ties between the nations date back to 1958, and initially focused largely on industrial growth, poverty reduction and rural development. Today, the major thrust areas of German expertise in India are energy, environment, and sustainable development. 

The IGCs, which started in 2011 in New Delhi and are held biennially, have become occasions to sign important development cooperation agreements. In 2013, at the second IGC in Berlin, 10 agreements were signed related to the fields of vocational education and skill training, railways, science and technology, and renewable energy. In 2015, Chancellor Merkel had visited New Delhi for the third IGC that saw both countries emphasize their commitment towards achieving sustainable development goals (SDGs), renewable energy and climate-friendly urban development. In 2017, during the 4th IGC in Berlin, 12 agreements were signed. Now the most recent one comes on the heels of the 60th anniversary of their development partnership in 2018.

The past few years have also seen several new bilateral agreements, spanning infrastructure and transportation, manufacturing, clean energy, skill development, water, and sanitation, among others. 

During the latest trip, key issues of discussion between the German Chancellor and PM Modi include:

  1. Strengthening cooperation in AI, digital transformation
    Recognising that AI will fundamentally impact the world in the coming years, both sides intend to partner in AI innovation and sustainable development impacting sectors spanning agriculture to IT-ITeS. Both sides reaffirmed the importance of a Digital Partnership to intensify collaboration in next-generation technologies. The two nations will leverage advantages on each side with increasing integration of hardware and software skills in developing IoT and AI solutions. The two nations will also collaborate in cybersecurity. 
  2. Expanding frontiers of trade, investment with innovation
    Both sides confirmed the importance of a balanced Free Trade Agreement between India and the EU and agreed to deepen efforts to restart negotiations between the EU and India on the Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement. Germany has been a steady partner in the Startup India and Make in India programs, simultaneously building capacity and skills for activities in space to railways. The two sides also expressed their support for multilateral trade platforms like WTO well as developmental programmes like SDGs.
  3. Taking Action for climate and sustainable development
    The two leaders acknowledged their joint responsibility for mitigating the impact of climate change through the enhanced promotion of renewable energy while increasing energy efficiency and reducing their carbon footprint. Germany is deeply invested in building clean and smart transport infrastructure in India to support the growth. For both countries, the SDGs and the Paris Agreement serve as guiding frameworks in their cooperation. India and Germany are also partnering in promoting circular economy across sectors. 
  4. Improving cultural and people to people connection 
    The two nations have had strong cooperation in the field of culture, which led to a collaboration between German and Indian Museums. The two nations are also partnering in building skills in sports, traditional healthcare, scientific R&D, among others. The countries are also committed to bolstering capacities in student exchanges as well as better handling matters related to migration and law and order situation. The countries agree that improved people to people exchanges will open up new avenues of opportunities for the future. 
  5. Strategic Partnership at the international level 
    Desirous of further strengthening their Strategic Partnership, which will be entering its 20th year in 2020, both sides will institutionalise the mechanism of the Foreign Office Consultations to be held every year. The two sides also established a Track 1.5 Strategic Dialogue that will enable key stakeholders to engage annually to enhance mutual understanding of national, regional and strategic interests and to work out recommendations for joint engagement and action on individual policy areas, including those related to defence and security.  

The relationship between the two countries is supported by all-round cooperation. After World War II, India was one of the first countries to recognize the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG). And in 1951, FRG established its consulate in Bombay, followed by its Embassy in New Delhi in 1952 with the Indo-German Chamber coming up in 1956. From Rourkela steel plant and IIT Madras set up with FRG collaboration in 1959 to the current collaborations across new and advanced technology, e-mobility, smart cities, inland waterways, and environmental protection, India-Germany relations have only gained strength with time and looks to get even stronger in the future. 

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