Bharat-Germany Ties : Fast Track Diplomacy
The three-day tour of German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Bharat proved to be another major feat in boosting the bilateral ties.
Visit of German Chancellor to Bharat is significant due to many reasons. The contours of world politics are changing on fast track. There are many ventures where Germany and Bharat can move along for joint benefits. The benefits could be mutual. The three-day tour of Merkel to Bharat proved to be another major feat in boosting the bilateral ties. In a bid to attract German investment, Bharat decided to set up a ‘fast-track clearance mechanism’ as Prime Minister Narendra Modi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel held bilateral talks and signed on 18 Memorandum of Understand-ings (MoUs) and agreements. Merkel, who welcomed Modi’s commitment to improve ease of doing business in Bharat, said, “I was very glad we were able to sign the fast-track agreement today so that the speed with which you provide licences to companies to set up business is increased.” The fast-track system for German companies will be taken care of by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), and will become operational by March 2016.
Why Germany is important for Bharat? Germany is the most populous country in Europe with a population of 82 million and an area of 357,000 sq kms. It is the 4th largest economy in the world with a GDP of US $ 3.5 trillion and contributes about 20 per cent of the EU budget. Germany is Bharat’s biggest trading partner in Europe, its 5th biggest trading partner in the world, 8th largest source of FDI and 2nd most important partner in terms of technological collaborations. Bharat and Germany have a ‘strategic partnership’ since 2000, which has been further strengthened with the first Intergovernmental Consultations (IGC) held in New Delhi in May 2011. The two countries have several institutionalised arrangements to discuss bilateral and global issues of interest.
The cultural ties were also alleviated with the adoption of language issue in both the countries. The two leaders also decided that while German will be taught in Kendriya Vidyalayas as an additional foreign language, modern Bharateeya languages will be taught in Germany. The two leaders also stressed on the need to revive negotiations for the long-pending Bharat-EU Free Trade pact, with Modi asking Merkel to use her influence in the grouping to remove impediments so that talks could resume. Both leaders resolved to expand ties in defence, security, intelligence, railways, trade, investment and clean energy. Sharing their concerns about the growing threat and global reach of terrorism and extremism, Modi and Merkel agreed to build closer collaboration to counter such challenges. A separate MoU on security cooperation was signed, which proposes to intensify cooperation in countering terrorism, issues relating to the threat of terrorism in Bharat’s neighbourhood, particularly on its Western border.
Merkel and Modi also discussed a number of global and regional issues, including climate change, the UN reform and the situation in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Ukraine. The joint statement said the two leaders also underlined the importance of freedom of navigation in international waters and the right of passage and other maritime rights in accordance with international law, in an apparent reference to growing Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea. By holding hands with Bharat at the UN, Germany is also signalling its readiness to deal with Bharat as an equal. Perhaps German strategists have come to understand that Germany and Bharat have exactly the same problem in regional and world affairs. Both countries are too big for their respective regions, but not yet big enough for the world as a whole. There is a strong Bharatiya diaspora exists in Germany which not only promotes economic ties but cultural ties between the two countries.
There are more than 1600 Bharat-German collaborations and over 600 Bharat-German joint ventures in operation. The Tagore Centre, set up by the ICCR in Berlin in 1994, regularly organises programmes to showcase the Bharateeya heritage and diversity of its culture, through a broad spectrum of dance, music, literary events, films, talks, seminars and exhibition events. There are about 110,000 people of Bharateeya origin in Germany. The Bharateeya Diaspora mainly comprises of technocrats, businessmen/traders and nurses. There is a strong cultural network between Bharat and Germany. In 1896 Vivekananda met the great German philosopher, Max Muller.
Germany could play a catalyst role in erasing the defensive and narrow approach of the EU against Bharat. Merkel could encourage her European partners to give up their defensive and narrow approach to FTA with Bharat and adopt, instead, a more strategic view based on an understanding that an economically stronger Bharat. If Germany adopts such an accommodative and development-oriented approach to issues such as multilateral trade and climate change, it can help strengthen the foundations of a Bharat-EU strategic partnership. This will definitely alleviate the status of Bharat in world politics.
Dr Satish Kumar (The writer is Head of Centre for International Relations, CUJ Ranchi)