Parul Verma is an undergraduate student, studying Engineering and Finance at the Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani, Goa, India. She is keenly interested in Diplomacy, Development Economics and World affairs and is a strong advocate for Technology and Digital solutions to problems in the field of public policy and human rights. She is a Senior Diploma holder in Kathak dancing and has prepared and performed street plays on sensitive topics to raise awareness. She has actively volunteered with NGOs like Disha Foundation and Nirmaan to promote drug rehabilitation and counselling, education and women empowerment. A bibliophile to the core, she also loves writing, believing it to be one of the most powerful mediums of expression and has been a part of the editorial team of her school magazine for four years and Chief Coordinator of her college Journalism Department. She can be reached at email@example.com.
India | June 27, 2020 | Student Essay
“….both our countries are not only natural partners but also important countries in an increasingly globalised world.” (Interview with Ambassador Mutzelburg)
How are the Republic of India – a rapidly developing country in South Asia and the Federal Republic of Germany – very developed, wealthy and one of the most powerful nations in the West, “natural partners”? Germany is a global leader in several industrial and technological sectors, especially automobile. It offers a very high standard of living that includes social security, universal health-care and tuition-free education. India contrastingly is still developing and faces numerous problems like lack of good education facilities, poor healthcare system, a very large and diverse demographic, rising unemployment and income disparity, regional security encroachments and human rights issues.
Despite these glaring differences in their socio-economic statuses, both countries are strong liberal democracies and thus have similar objectives which include but are not limited to UN reforms, fighting terrorism and climate change, promotion of science, education, technology, and human rights. Culturally, Indian and German writers and philosophers have influenced each other. Germany is India’s largest trade partner in Europe (WITS Data). As neighboring nations in the European Union turn towards Germany as their leader, a lot of nations in South-East Asia are looking at India to be their figurehead. India has greatly benefited from German help and investments and Germany has gained access to a very large market. Therefore, strong and complementary Indo-German partnerships are but natural and must be built mindful of –
(i) Individual benefits to each nation. (ii) Sending out a strong message of alliance and leadership to the world.
A Brief History of Bilateral Relations between the two countries –
Ever since 1951 – when diplomatic relations began between the two nations, amidst the backdrop of a changing socio-political-economic global scene – the two countries have established strong bilateral relationships in the fields of trade, technology and culture. The end of the Cold War and India’s economic liberalization in 1991 marked a renewed interest in India by the Western powers, with Germany being amongst the first few to recognize India’s potential as a major player in Asia and the world. This marked a significant shift in Indo-German foreign policies, which widened its scope to accommodate the ambitions of both countries. This culminated in the 10-point “Agenda for German-Indian Partnership in the 21st century” – a bilateral framework adopted at Delhi, India in May, 2000 by the foreign ministers of the two countries – which became a point of reference for all future agreements. The five main agenda points can be summarized as – (i) Building stronger political bilateral relations. (ii) Coordinating upon security policies and for global non-proliferation. (iii) Strengthening of economic relations through industry and academic exchange. (iv) Strengthening cultural relations. (v) Advocating for a reformed and restructured UN.
Bilateral agreements in the 21st century have mainly focused on trade and investment, research, sustainable development, reduction of carbon footprints and climate change, counter-terrorism, military and intelligence support, a call for global disarmament and non-proliferation, solidarity with promotion of human rights, and restructuring of the United Nations (UN) Security Council. The most recent bilateral visit of Chancellor Merkel showed Germany’s willingness to be a part of Prime Minister Modi’s “New India” program, which focuses on improving socio-economic and digital growth through education and employment (Bilateral visit in Oct-Nov, 2019). Since India has a lot of potential in terms of natural resources and labor power (skilled and unskilled workforce), and Germany has technological expertise and very high spending capacity on foreign investments, Indo-German economic agreements are win-win for both sides. Free Trade Agreements, German investment in green projects and startups, funding and promoting of academic exchange programs are of utmost significance. Both countries acknowledge the importance of and plan to cooperate on Artificial Intelligence and modern technology. The Indo-German Chamber of Commerce could be entrusted with newer responsibilities to this effect. India will also benefit greatly from Germany’s support when faced with state-sponsored terrorism of neighboring countries like Pakistan and border issues with China.
The recent Covid-19 pandemic has brought forth various problems like ban on international travel, exposing flaws in healthcare systems and putting on hold various international projects. Coupled with a recession, this has led to the World Bank declaring that the “global economy is in a crisis” (Global Economic Crisis). With the per capita incomes set to decrease in developing countries in the coming year, India looks forward to its developed friend even more for assistance to create employment, provide basic salaries to its workers and maintain food security. Promotion of IT services and digitalization has acquired urgency for which India requires infrastructure and money. Germany can play a major role in addressing India’s human rights issues which include minority rights violation and illegal immigration. India can take inspiration from how Germany promotes human rights at every level, an example of which is ensuring equal opportunities for its women and its handling of the 2015 European immigration crisis and run awareness campaigns and programs in collaboration. Germany being a very strong member of the UN and India’s increasing international stature can result in a very formidable alliance in multilateral summits and conferences like the UN, World Bank and World Trade Organization. Germany should be cognizant of the interests other developed countries have in India and thus negotiate in its favor.
The Way Forward
The coming years will see a lot of change in terms of technology and innovation and governance. The global scenario has changed considerably with the US-China trade war, Covid-19 pandemic globalization, and the technological revolution and countries must plan in this setting. Germany is a strong contender for the most powerful nation in the West while India has acquired an excellent reputation in Asia. Strong synergies between the East and West will pave the path forward for all countries. India and Germany can together lead the way to a better world.
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