PM Narendra Modi welcomed German Chancellor Angela Merkel to India with a Namaste tweet on the 4th of October. The Chancellor’s following three days in India for the 3rd Intergovernmental Consultations underlined new diplomatic definitions to Germany’s 500 years old trade relations with India. The Chancellor was accompanied by a delegation of four cabinet ministers in her first visit to India since the Modi government came to power, six months after PM Modi’s visit to Germany in April where the two leaders jointly inaugurated the Hannover Fair and discussed Germany’s investment in the ‘Make in India’ campaign.
Talks between the two leaders aimed at the deepening of bilateral engagement in sectors including education, urban development, skill development, railways, science and technology, renewable energy, water and waste management, and agriculture, considering that Germany is the only country with which India conducts bi-annual joint cabinet meetings.
The Chancellor received a ceremonial welcome by President Pranab Mukherjee at the Rashtrapati Bhawan. Her first engagement was the traditional wreath laying at the Mahatma Gandhi’s memorial. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj welcomed Dr Merkel at the Hyderabad House ahead of the three hours long delegation-level talks with the PM. On Tuesday, the Chancellor travelled to Bengaluru and visited the Robert Bosch Engineering & Innovation Centre in the city as well as attended a business forum organised by NASSCOM & Frauenhofer Institute.
At the conclusion of the delegation dialog the two countries had signed 18 deals worth $2.25 billion (around ₹ 14,600 crore). The deals included German investment in the development of India’s clean energy corridors and solar energy industry, afore the critical UN climate change talks scheduled to be held in Paris in December where India is to be a key speaker.
Other agreements encompassed the signing of a pact under which German will be taught in central schools throughout India as an additional foreign language while schools in Germany will teach modern Indian languages; and pacts on issues like trade and investment along with improved bilateral cooperation in diverse developmental projects. India is Germany’s largest partner for development cooperation and the current India-Germany bilateral trade was assessed at around $18 billion, primarily in chemicals, electrical goods, textiles and machine tools.
India has 1,700 German companies which make the largest German bi-national Chamber of Commerce as well as the largest Chamber of Commerce in India. During the Indo-German summit Dr Merkel promised that more German companies will come to India and the signing of the fast-track approval agreement will ensure that they have a solo point of contact with the Indian government and are spared the formalities of bureaucracy.
In Bengaluru, the two leaders visited the plant of German automotive company Bosch and interacted with its executives on innovation and research to help the governments of both the countries encourage ‘Make in India’ and ‘Digital India’ campaigns.
PM Modi said at the forum organised by NASSCOM, promoting his pet ‘Digital India’ campaign, “We have worked for 15 months to make India an easy place to do business.” He also stated that it is the software of India that will move the hardware of the world. In agreement, Dr Merkel said, “German engineering and India’s IT expertise are fused here in Bengaluru.”
Another highlight of the summit was the return of a 10th century statue of Mahishasurmardini Durga to Prime Minister Narendra Modi by Dr Merkel. Interestingly, the four member delegation accompanying Chancellor Angela Merkel was originally supposed to also comprise of German Minister of Defence Ursula von der Leyen and Minister of Economic Affairs and Energy Sigmar Gabriel. The cancellation of the two cabinet ministers hints that the Indian and German governments have not reached a conclusion on their crucial conventional submarines contract. Thus, nothing significant on defence front was announced during the visit of Dr Merkel.
The Delhi summit was concluded by PM Modi with the following words, “We see Germany as a natural partner in achieving our vision of India’s economic transformation. German strengths and India’s priorities are aligned.”