Free Press Journal

German Week in Mumbai: Indo-German ties move towards new highs


Beginning 4 October, Mumbai will be witness to a German Week at the Mahalaxmi Race Course. During this week, Germany will be showcasing its technological prowess that India has benefited from in no small measure.  It will be highlighting the opportunities it holds out in areas like education, which several thousand students benefit from each year. And it will be promoting its culture, including its beer. During this week, it will be offering its Octoberfest beer, served by robots. The idea is to remind India that Germany is always around in much of what Indians do, and are exposed to. It is also to highlight the decades old ties that both countries have enjoyed.  Rahul Nayar of Free Press Journal spoke with several leading Germans and all of them pointed to ways in which both countries have worked together.

Old ties

Economic and commercial relations between India and Germany date back to the early 16th century when German trading companies from Augsburg and Nuremberg, developed a new sea route around Africa, as they sailed in search of precious stones and spices. Thereafter, a number of German companies were established with the purpose of trading with India and other Asian countries in the 16th and 18th centuries. Werner Von Siemens, founder of Siemens, personally supervised the laying of the first telegraph line between Kolkata and London, which was completed in 1870. The first wholly – owned subsidiary of Bayer in Asia ‘Farbenfabriken Bayer and Co. Ltd.’ was setup in Mumbai in 1896.

India was one of the first countries to end the state of war with post-war Germany in 1951 and amongst the first countries to recognise the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG). The relationship, based on common values of democracy and rule of law has strengthened significantly in the 1990’s following India’s economic liberalisation and the end of the Cold War. In the last decade, both political and economic interaction between India and Germany has enhanced significantly. Today, Germany is one of India’s most important partners, both bilaterally and in the global context.

India and Germany have enjoyed a ‘strategic partnership’ since 2001. The last inter-governmental consultations (IGC) between India and Germany were held in Berlin in May 2017. The Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi and the German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed to further strengthen the strategic partnership between India and Germany by deepening cooperation on foreign policy and security issues as well as on sustainable development, and enhanced trade and investment ties.

Prime Minister Modi and Chancellor Merkel reiterated that the Indo-German strategic partnership is based on common values of democracy, free trade and a rule-based international order and that it has strengthened the bilateral relations by further enhancing trust and mutual respect.

As strategic partners, India and Germany are committed to close coordination, bilaterally and with partners, in the G20, the United Nations and other multilateral fora, to address existing and emerging challenges to international security, global economic stability and growth.

Limitless expansion potential in partnerships

India, as one of the fastest growing economies in the world, offers various opportunities for German companies. Today, more than 1,700 German companies are active in India, providing around 6, 00,000 direct and indirect jobs. Germany is India’s largest trading partner in Europe and among India’s top ten global trade partners.

Bilateral trade between Germany and India in 2016 was valued at more than EUR 17.4 billion. For decades, Germany has been among the ten principal foreign direct investors in India. In 2015, German direct investment amounted to approximately EUR 9.2 billion. Investments were focused on the transport, electrical and metal sectors. Over the past years, the service sector (in particular insurance) has headed the field, with a share of some 26 percent, followed by the construction and automotive industries.

In 2015-2016, new German direct investment amounted to USD 986 million, compared to USD 1,125 million in the previous year. These figures only take into account direct money flows, not indirect investment, and thus in no way reflect the real engagement of German companies there. Indian investments in Germany have remarkably increased over the last few years. Indian corporate entities have invested over EUR 6.5 billion in Germany, especially in sectors of IT, automotive, pharma and biotech. Today, there are more than 200 Indian companies operating in Germany.

Exports and Imports

Major Indian exports to Germany are Textiles, Metal & Metal Products, Electro Technology, Leather & Leather Goods, Food& Beverages, Machinery, Pharmaceuticals, Auto Components, Chemicals, Gems & Jewellery and Rubber Products. Major Indian imports from Germany are Machinery, Electro Technology, Metal & Metal Products, Chemicals, Auto Components, Measurement & Control Equipment, Plastics, Medical Technology, Pharmaceuticals, Paper & Printing Materials.

Science and technology

Scientific and technological cooperation with India dates back to the late 1950s and is based in part on intergovernmental agreements. The German House of Research and Innovation (DWIH) was officially opened in New Delhi in October 2012. The idea of bringing together German scientific and research institutions under one roof is designed to make it easier for Indian and German scientists, researchers and students to forge contacts with one another and to raise Germany’s profile as a science and research location.

Together with India, Germany supports a bilateral research promotion centre – a unique model for Germany. The Indo-German Science and Technology Centre (IGSTC) in Gurgaon near New Delhi has been co-funded by Germany and India since 2008. Each country initially contributing an annual sum of EURO 2 million. Since 2017, the funding has been doubled annually to EURO 4 million. The IGSTC promotes bilateral application-oriented research projects in cooperation with industrial partners from both countries.

India has a major stake in several large research institutions in Germany. It has contributed about EURO 30 million to the multinational FAIR particle accelerator in Darmstadt and has also invested substantial sums in licenses for use of the DESY particle accelerator in Hamburg. Germany is India’s second most important research partner worldwide, after the United States. This is reflected in the large number of joint Indo-German scientific publications. More than 1,000 Indian postgraduate students in Germany constitute the second largest group of foreign PhD students.

Notable among Germany-India education ties are:

The Max Planck Society’s cooperation with India, based on an agreement with India’s Department of Science and Technology (DST), is gaining considerable momentum. In 2015, more than 830 researchers from India arrived to work at Max Planck institutes, a sharp increase over the previous years. In terms of the international exchange of young researchers, India has become one of the Max Planck Society’s biggest partners. With regard to the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation scholarship programmes and prizes awarded to foreign researchers, India is one of the leading countries, after the United States, Russia and China.

The German Research Foundation (DFG) has had an office in New Delhi since 2006. As part of research cooperation between the DFG and the Indian National Science Academy (INSA), around 500 Indian researchers have so far spent time in Germany.

Some major German companies in India

Some of the top household names for German companies in India are: Adidas, Allianz Insurance, BASF, Bayer, Bosch Group, Deutsche Bank Group, DHL Express, Lufthansa SAP,  Siemens  Group,   and of course the car manufacturers as Mercedes, Volkswagen, BMW, Audi, Porsche, MAN.

Prominent Indian companies in Germany

Some of the prominent Indian Cos in Germany are TCS, Infosys, Tata Steel, Wipro, Bharat Forge Limited, NBA Bearings, Hinduja, Mahindra, Motherson Sumi Systems Limited and Amtek.

Vocational training and Skill Development

Vocational education and training is an important area of Indo-German strategic bilateral partnership. This was underlined once more in the joint memorandum of understanding on cooperation in the field of skill development and vocational education and training signed by the responsible ministries and exchanged in the presence of German Chancellor and Indian Prime Minister during governmental consultations in 2015.

India targets to skill 400 million workforce till 2022, and Germany is one of its strong partners for the Indo-German cooperation in vocational education & training (VET) has a long history.


More than 9,000 Indian students are pursuing various courses in Germany, while around 800 German students are studying or doing their internships in India. Many Indian students are opting for Engineering and Management courses in German Universities. Today, there are 750 public-funded research institutions which are active in India. As many as 330 scientists have received support under the DFG which is based in Hyderabad. In 2016, as many as 805 junior scientists went to Max Plank centres in Germany (there are 83 of them in our country). Then there is the Alexander von J Humboldt Foundation from which 1,700 Indian students received fellowships and 23 research awards. Germany is also active

in training programme to accelerate and scale up skill development in India.

India matters

SAP has chosen India as the seat for one of its three largest research centres in the world. These centres are located in Bengaluru, Shanghai and Silicon Valley. The importance Germany accords to India can also been seen in the way it has re-designated this entire region not as Asia-Pacific, but as Indo-Pacific. It even held the Indo-Pacific regional ambassadors meeting recently, which included ambassadors from East Africa and the Middle East. Germany recognises India as a regional economic power. It has an important role to plan in a rule-based world, regional stability and curbing global terrorism. India has also reciprocated and now we have a fast track mechanism with India, which allows issues to be resolved on a priority basis.


Tourist arrivals from India to Germany have grown steadily over the years. The recent figures show that almost 4, 14,000 Indian tourists have been to Germany in 2017.