By wooing Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany at the right time when US President Donald Trump was playing truant and China was adopting hard postures, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pragmatic approach to Indo-German relations has charmed her appropriately. It was small wonder then that Ms Merkel pitched hard for an early pan-European Union free trade agreement with India for mutual benefit to counter the “protectionist tendencies” worldwide. Her remarks came in the wake of Trump’s repeated criticism of Germany’s trade surplus with the US, tweeting that the massive US trade deficit with Europe’s largest economy will change.
Evidently, Modi convinced her of the commonality of interests between India and EU. The Prime Minister said in Berlin that India and Germany were ‘made for each other’ and that Indo-German ties must be outcome-oriented. Though the dozen agreements that India and Germany signed on Modi’s trip were no earth-shakers, they covered significant sectors like cyber security, skills training, heavy industry, health and development in which there could now be tangible progress. That a broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement between India and EU remains inconclusive despite 16 rounds of talks is an index of tortuous nature of the relationship in recent times.
While Germany backed India’s membership bid in the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the two countries supported each other’s candidature for a permanent seat in a reformed UN Security Council. This may only be symbolic given the roadblocks that China has put on the way but it is nevertheless significant for the longer term. The hyperbolic statements condemning terrorism were routine though they reflected a new resolve to co-operate. As Modi underlined, cyber security and intelligence sharing will be very important aspects of this cooperation. Germany is the largest trade partner for India in the EU and one of the leading sources of foreign direct investment (FDI) into the country.
There has been FDI of 2 billion dollars (from Germany) in the past two years. Clearly, the direction in future Indo-German relations is expected to be positive. There may well be some irritants considering that India has had an unsteady relationship with Europe over the years but that some rough edges have been removed on this visit of Prime Minister Modi is happy augury. With an unpredictable Trump at the helm in the US and China prone to flexing its muscles, both India and Germany need to broaden the scope of their other relationships.